Thursday, December 22, 2011

When I Want My WIP to RIP

Blarg! My WIP is driving me crazy. The story itself is good, I think (though of course, I get insecure about even that when I start to think about it), but I'm not satisfied with my presentation of it. It is way more difficult than I thought it would be to slowly reveal little segments of the mystery without giving away too much of it at once. I'm eager to finish this thing, revise it, and get it to Alpha readers who can tell me whether I manage to pull off any surprise at all or whether they realize what's going on way before the main character does.

I've learned by now to have faith in the process, which sounds disgustingly touchy-feely, but I've learned that if I keep plugging away at something, I will eventually have an "oh, duh," moment that clarifies how to make certain elements of the story work. That doesn't make this stage of it--the hard work, the stubbornness of the story line, the boredom because I sense that this isn't quite having the pizazz I want--any easier, but it does encourage me to keep going.

Monday, November 21, 2011

8 Pre-Scene Writing Questions

I've been finding that once I force myself to write a scene, even if it doesn't flow very well, I often realize that the scene could have been much better if I'd written some aspect of it differently. Instead of getting it "right" (or closer to right) the first time, I then know that I'll have to go back and fix it in a revision. I've been wondering if there are questions I could ask myself before starting a scene that would make that scene's first incarnation stronger than it would otherwise be. Here are some of the ideas I've had:
  1. Going into this scene, what does each character want, both in the book as a whole and, more importantly, from this interaction in particular?
  2. What does each character know or think they know?
  3. What is each character afraid of?
  4. (Related) What is each character trying to conceal?
  5. What is the setting?
  6. What aspects of the setting reflect the POV character's mood?
  7. What aspects of the setting is the POV character likely to notice and be affected by?
  8. (Per Mary Robinette Kowal's excellent suggestion on Writing Excuses) Which of Orson Scott Card's M. I. C. E. elements (milieu, idea, character, event) most defines this interaction? How does that influence where the scene stops and starts?

Just brainstorming these ideas has given a bit more structure to both the scene I just wrote and the scene I'm about to write. I think this idea has promise. What other questions would it be productive to ask?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Showering Brilliance

Mwa ha! This is why I don't give up on stories even when they limp along agonizingly for weeks or even months. Because I know that one day while I'm in the shower rubbing Olay foaming cleanser onto my face, all the pieces that I've been trying to tether down will jump into place. The problems will become solutions. The plot holes will become plot twists. The characters will become real.

Today was that day. My hair is wet, my face is soft, my mind is zooming. It's a good day to keep on writing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

To Realize You Suck

In one of the Writing Excuses episodes, Brandon Sanderson said (and cited others who said), that one of the biggest advantages they had as beginning writers was that they had no idea how bad they were.

I was, and still am, so jealous of that. I realized how bad I was when I was about sixteen. I submitted something to the Reader's Digest and it was, of course, rejected. As I considered what I'd written I thought, "Wow. I suck." And that knowledge stayed has stayed with me for fifteen years. It's part of the reason I never took my desire to write seriously.

Jessica Day George has said that during first drafts, she's like a toddler on a sugar high. I envy that, too. First drafts are agony for me. With every word, I'm shooting myself corrections. "POV slip. Not enough conflict. Action doesn't rise high enough. Redundant descriptions. Wrong character carries most of the action. Cliched phrase." And all the time I'm wondering to myself, "Do I go back and correct these things? Do I make marginal notes? Do I fix this section even though I suspect that doing so may require a massive rewrite of several chapters or even changing the main character?"

I try to take the advice of authors whom I admire, and the almost universal advice seems to be no, don't revise. Finish the draft. It may not be as broken as you realize. It may be much more broken than you realize. Either way, you need to view it in its entirety before you can really know what to fix and, more importantly, how to fix it.

What keeps me going, aside from the grim determination of imagining I'm smothering a jar full of mice, is trying to drop myself into the scene, to forget about the words and just see the characters bursting into motion, to feel the things they're feeling. (I suspect that this makes my face look really weird and MPDish when I write.)

I wonder if it's worth it. I wonder if I'll be glad I did this in the end.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Boot to the Head!

I want to kick my novel in the head. It's not doing what I want it to do.

I just keep reminding myself that I've had other novels that I hated just as much. One of them truly was a disaster, but the other one now looks like it might have potential. I'm pressing on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back in the Saddle

I "took a break," which was so stupid. Well-intentioned people who love me very much told me that I was working myself too hard, that I was always exhausted and had a headache, that I needed sleep, and that taking one day off wouldn't stop me from writing. They were right about three of the four. And it's not even their fault because I knew that if I took a day off from writing because I was having a hard time--especially since I was having a hard time--I wouldn't go back. But I took a break anyway. And I didn't.

But I've returned, and this time I shall not give myself any leeway. I'm not going to quit and even though the last couple nights have really, really sucked it up. (WANT! Every scene needs to have something the character WANTS. There should be an entire creative writing class devoted to driving that into writers' heads. YOUR CHARACTERS MUST WANT. ALL THE TIME, IN DIFFERENT WAYS, AND WITH DIFFERENT INTENSITIES. THEY MUST WANT!)


All that aside, I'm back in the saddle and building up my stamina again. This time, though, instead of just pushing myself to write more words, I'm also going to prep myself to write more words. I'm going to outline and have scene descriptions so that I know where to go when I'm writing. Honestly, if I know where to go, I can pretty much write anything.

I wrote 500 words Monday and 654 words tonight.

Yes sir. Up and at 'em.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paralyzing Suckage

I just submitted a section to my writing group, and I'm currently feeling great self-loathing. What in the world am I thinking?

I often hear successful writers say that what kept them going was that they had no idea how bad they were when they started. I'm so jealous of that. I've always been scathingly, totally, paralyzingly aware of my suckage at creative writing. It makes showing anything to anybody really hard.

*Chewing nails*

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Challenges! And writing.

Whoee! This week has been a challenge, one that for the most part, I have not risen to.

I'm having a hard time balancing being a full time mom, a part-time college teacher, and a part-time writer. Two of my three kids are still at home, so I really am a full time mom. It's not like there are eight or even four hours a day when I have free time. They're here needing to be fed and cleaned up after and played with and nursed and cleaned up after and changed and then fed again. There are naptimes (sometimes), but that half-hour doesn't feel like much time when I've got two or seven hours of extra work I need to squeeze in each day. The seven sounds like hyperbole, but it's not. Twice a week I leave for work at 5:30 pm and get home at 10:30 pm. Add an hour of grading and an hour of writing, both of which are conservative estimates, and I've literally got an extra seven hour work day on top of the 7 am to 5:30 pm Mom shift I just pulled. On the other days, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to get grading and writing done, and those 2 to 3 hours usually don't even start until 9 pm when the baby goes down. In short, time's a legitimate challenge. Not an excuse, but a challenge.

Time is one thing I'm struggling with. The other is energy. I know, I know. Everyone's sick of hearing stay at home moms whine about how tired they are, and I'm not whining--I'm just saying it: I'm exhausted by the end of the day. And teaching makes it worse. Nothing saps my creative energy like teaching and grading writing. I don't know why that is, and I think it's horribly unfair, but there it is.

So that's the problem. The challenge: what to do about it? I have several ideas:

  1. More moderate writing (and possibly grading) goals on the days I have to teach. I love the idea of consistently pushing myself to reach higher and higher benchmarks, but I've seen this week that when my benchmarks are too high, I give up. Better to make Monday and Thursday (the days I teach for five hours at night) thousand word days and actually write than make them 2500 word days and quit in discouragement.
  2. I need an outline. Writing is not particularly difficult. It's knowing what comes next that I struggle with. If I have it on paper in front of me, I might find composing the words easier.
  3. Accountability. I've conscripted my bff (who is patient and wise) into being my de facto word count cheerleader. I message her word count milestones on Facebook. For the most part she ignores me, which is fine with me (her life is even busier and more exhausting than mine is), but sometimes she says, "Go you!" or "Nice work." And that means so much to me. It really keeps me going.
  4. Lego Man starts preschool this week. I'm clinging to this desperate hope that with him gone and the house quiet, BabyGirl will sleep for an hour or maybe even two, allowing me to get some serious grading and/or writing done.
  5. Finally, choosing it. The awareness of choice empowers and energizes me. I am choosing all these challenges. No one is making me work. No one is making me write. No one made me have kids. Every time I feel tired, every time I want to complain, every time I want to quit, I tell myself that I am choosing my actions and, by extension, my experiences. That helps too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2466 Words and Voluntary Delusion

So the last few days have been so crazy that I didn't take time to blog. There were a few days on which I only did 1200 or so words, but with the exception of last night (I was absolutely beat and I knew I needed to get up early for the first day of school this morning), I always wrote. Tonight I was resolved to get back to building up my stamina. I did a little bit of writing this morning while BabyGirlDoll slept and then a little more tonight after I graded my daily quota of student papers.

I so hope this all works out and isn't just a waste of time, ya know? I've never wanted anything this rawly, this unabashedly, this hopefully before. I've never worked this hard and consistently for anything that wasn't reasonably guaranteed. No, wait. That's not true. I took years of voice lesson and worked my guts out in order to make the elite choir when I was in high school. Never did make it.

Well, rot. There's a thought I wish I hadn't had.

Nope. I can't give in to that train of thought. Embrace the fantasy. Choose the delusion. Make yourself believe.

Because that's what it is, really. I suspect most people who are competent writers to begin with are smart enough to realize that they've got a snowball's chance in hell of getting published and an even smaller chance of becoming popular. I know this. I've known this for years. I've told myself and my mother and my grandma and my aunt and my in-laws and my husband and my friends and my students, all of whom have asked me where my novel is, this very thing for years and years and years. I really, really, really wanted to not want to write, and I hoped that by mocking and ignoring and again mocking my desire to write a novel, it would eventually go away.

It didn't.

Finally one day I heard that quote that's always attributed to Einstein, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, and I realized that I'd been trying the same thing over and over for years. Suppress the desire to write and when it becomes unbearable do something small and non-committal. Hit a rough patch. Use this to remind yourself that writing is for dreamers and wannabees, and quit again.

Trouble is, that never got me any peace. It never got me to the point where I felt content. I realized it wasn't going to, so I thought I'd try actually pursuing the "dream" (can you tell that I feel a little sarcastic about dreams?) of writing a novel. I have no idea if this will eventually lead to some kind of contentment either, but at least it's something new. But in order to spend an hour or two a day writing instead of sleeping or reading or sleeping or spending time with kids or cooking or sleeping, I have to delude myself that I'm going to get published. If I don't make myself believe that for at least as long as I'm in front of the keyboard, I'll give up.

Today I wrote 2466 words.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I have this compulsion to make things perfect. Here's an example: the other day, I bought a box of Legos for CrazyKid (4) at a yard sale. In the box were a few random cards from a game apparently called Gulp. Because BookBoy (6) is obsessed with a) anything that has words on it and b) anything that involves fish, he immediately snatched up the cards and began playing a weeks-long elaborate game with the cards and his cooking books. (He is also obsessed with cooking books and word and number games.)

He's happy. He loves the cards. He's learning. That should be good enough.

But nooooo . . . . every time I see him carrying around that quarter-stack of raggedy cards, I have this overwhelming compulsion to scour Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, anywhere to find him the actual game, complete with 52 crisp, shiny new Gulp cards. I haven't been able to find them anywhere. That's probably good for me.

The perfectionism is good when it makes me obsess over making my classes, projects, lectures, or decorating better, but it's bad when it paralyzes me or makes me fixate on something to the point that I waste hours on something that doesn't really matter. It's what stopped me from trying to write for years.

Tonight I wrote a little more than a thousand words. They were far from perfect. Even the word count was far from perfect. (My goal was 2400 words.) But it's late, and the baby has been waking us up a lot, and I'm so tired, so tonight I'm going to set my perfectionism aside and say that even though the writing wasn't perfect, at least it was.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Last night there was much family drama and a very harrowing situation, so I copped out and only wrote 1200 words. (I have to say, though, that I love the fact that I now define only writing 1200 words as a copout.)

Tonight I forced myself to get back on track and wrote 2330 words.

I need to come up with more things to blog about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I am Bullheaded

Today was the first day of the gauntlet. I refer to my small petty challenges as gauntlets because it makes me feel cool. The gauntlet was to finish three hours of teaching English, make the forty minute commute home, and then, staring at 10:45, do my writing. If I can do that all semester, I may not have to abandon my noveling in order to do the whole mothering by day, teaching by night thing.

Done, done, and done.

I can't believe that all these years I thought consistent writing was about inspiration or genius. Turns out, it's mostly about being bullheaded. Ha ha ha ha ha. Bullheaded I can so do.

Tonight I wrote 2,202 words.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Watching the Hugos and 2100 Words

OMG. I watched the Hugos streaming live until 11:30. Why? Because I am a moron. I was really, really, really tempted to just go to bed after that, but I couldn't very well watch this totally inspiring writing awards ceremony and then wuss out on doing my own writing, could I?

I am cogitating positively. Cogitating positively. Cogitating . . . snore.

I wrote 2100 words today. So tired. Must sleep.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pinterest and 2,025 Words

Again exhausted. Again powered through. One more night, and I'll have finished week two of consistent, increasing amounts of writing.

Wrote 2,025 words tonight. I'm hoping this draft feels more cohesive than the last one did. It certainly has more direction.

Hey, here's a cool thing that I do, and I'd love it if other writers did the same thing, because I think it's fun.

I don't know if you've heard of Pinterest, which is basically an online bulletein board for images. I've got about 20 boards, but one I use is the "Creative Inspiration," board. (I would call it my "Novel Writing," board, but then my friends and family would know that I'm actively writing a novel, and I'm not sure I'm ready to come out yet.) Whenever I have an object or character or setting that I need to get a better visual grasp on, I do a Google image search, and when I find the right image, I pin it to that board. Sometimes when I'm writing I have my Word doc open on one half of the screen and the board open on the other half. It helps put me in the mood I'm trying to evoke and the pictures serve as visual reminders of where I'm going.

What about you? Do you have a Pinterest board? Do you use it for novel-writing stuff?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18-1911 Words. Starting Over.

I started my WIP over tonight. I know, I know. I swore I wouldn't do that, but sometimes you get far enough down the rabbit hole that you realize you've taken a wrong turn somewhere and you need to back up and start over. There were so many things that weren't gelling. Plot holes and threads that got dropped then picked up again or appeared out of thin air in the middle of the novel. Several characters whose entire personalities and backstories changed mid-novel because I realized 20,000 words in that something else worked better.

Plus, after reading Weronika Janczuk's article On Compactness for Write On Con, I realized that my story had absolutely no voice. I went back and re-wrote my opening in first person, and while I didn't love the first-person part, I liked the voice that emerged. And changing something as pervasive as the entire voice of a novel involves a massive rewrite. With all these changes that need to be made, I'm pretty sure starting over is actually the easiest way to go. And really, I was only 31,000 words in. At the rate I'm going, I can make that up in two or three weeks.

If I can keep up the rate I'm going. My stomach just squinched to remind me that I start teaching night classes this Monday. And my stomach just double-squinched to remind me that I still need to compile quite a few documents in preparation for my first class.

Also, my husband's computer just sprang to life and turned itself on. Why do these types of things always happen when I'm alone at night writing a supernatural thriller?

Tonight I wrote 1,911 words.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17--1813 Words

1813 words. My goal was 1600. Guess I met it.

Had another hard time tonight. It's all so clear in my head, but for some reason it's just not coming together. Hubs told me that if I was that gridlocked, I should give myself a night off. He had a point, but right now putting out a WIP is only part of my goal. The other part of my goal is to increase my creative, emotional, and physical stamina so that I'm strong enough to make consistent, significant progress toward my goals. I have to. I'm 30 years old. I don't have any time to dink around with low output. So while this is definitely a creative exercise, it's also a stamina building exercise. That's why I kept at it tonight. But darn. Doing 1800 tonight means I have to do 1900 tomorrow night. I'd've preferred to have stopped at 1600. I like slow, steady progress.

You know, every author says that their first draft of anything sucks horribly, and I'm sure they believe that's true. But I have to wonder as I look at my WIP--did their drafts suck this much? Doesn't really matter, I suppose. They kept writing and got where they are. I'll keep writing and get where I want to be.

PS: I do have a life outside of writing. It's a vibrant, active, busy life, which is why I do my writing at ten o'clock at night. According to Neil Gaiman and Robison Wells, I should be blogging about that, too. I'll get on that just as soon as I--yawn--get some sleep.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wow. The universe is conspiring to see how serious I am about writing consistently. I burned my finger doing a craft today, and by seven o'clock, I still wasn't able to put the ice pack down long enough to type a Facebook update, let alone 1500 words of a novel. Since I thought I was out due to an injury, I agreed to watch some 90s comedy with hubs and his bros, and by the time the movie ended at 11, I realized that my finger didn't hurt anymore, which meant that the 1500 words must go on. I wanted to go to bed instead.

They're not great words, I can tell ya that. I've got a huge ol' freakin' list of all the things that suck about this entire scene. Heck, the entire story. But. But. I am trying really, really hard not to listen to that voice. That voice has kept me from writing for 15 years. Not that that voice is wrong. That voice has extremely good taste and is very insightful, but during creating time, it needs to be quiet. As much as I'm not loving the character voices, the action, or the monologue-nature of this scene, I am getting some good character discovery and background information, and I think that as clunky as this scene is, it needs to be allowed to unwind.

This novel is weird to me. I feel like I know the characters and the story and the plot so well, and in my head they're absolutely brilliant, but I'm having an incredibly hard time getting all of that onto paper. It's weirding me out a bit because usually when I know something, I can express it.

Another thing that's weird? Realizing that for the first time in my life, I'm honestly working as hard as I can toward the one thing I've really wanted since I was six. That feels really weird.

I wrote 1521 words tonight.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I was at high risk for wussing out tonight. I want to the library to listen to a visiting writer speak, and it ran really long. Like three hours long. Plus, the writer spoke about self-publication and how difficult it was to find a traditional publisher, which put me in a weird headspace. AND yesterday was my day off, and it can be difficult to get back in a groove after a day off. AND the sky was full of the smoky remnants of summer, which always makes me want to get in a car and tear off to a mountaintop somewhere where I can stare at the stars and cry and wish that I were 12 or 21 again.

But instead of doing anything irresponsible (okay, I did one irresponsible thing: I ordered a McDonald's meal with a strawberry shake and I ate the entire meal), I sat down and started rattling away.

I wrote 1330 words.

Okay, can we talk about that please? Why do my word counts all end in 5s or 0s? It makes it seem like I'm rounding or making up word counts, but I'm not, I promise. I just do Microsoft's word count and subtract yesterday's word count to establish that day's word count. Nevertheless, it's weirding me out. Tomorrow I will not have a word count that ends in 0 or 5.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wow! Was sorely tempted to skip writing tonight, mostly cause I was just so darn tired.

I slept badly last night, and then today I took the kids yard saleing (got an 11 piece set of Christmas village decorations for 18 bucks, which was satisfying), then went to a parade. Had a quick lunch break, then went to the library and finally to the zoo. I did all of this in strappy wedge sandals and 90 degree heat, so by the time we stumbled in the door at 8:30 pm and I tucked the baby in bed (hubs handled the boys), I was ready to collapse in bed. "Plus," I told myself, "with feet and a head that ache like this, your writing will be terrible. And you've done so well all week long."

But I was really afraid that if I took an unscheduled break, I'd go back to sputtering and stuttering along, and I just couldn't afford to do that, so I put lotion on my feet and icy hot on my neck and shoulders and attacked the keyboard. Wrote 1240 words.

Just to recap, this is what I've done this week.

Monday: 565
Tuesday: 735
Wednesday: 835
Thursday: 901
Friday: 1170
Saturday: 1240

I like the upward trend, but I'm not sure I'll be able to maintain it. School starts in two weeks, which means that starting this Monday, I have to re-don my college teacher cap, which always takes up a lot of time. But I'm too tired to worry about that tonight. For now, I'm just going to consider it a week well-played and call it good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Well fancy that! If you go to bed a decent hour, then the next day when your baby is sleeping, you can actually stay conscious and write instead of passing out on your bed. Just wrote 1170 words. Unfortunately, most of it was landscaping wish fulfillment (really, how long should it take an MC to find a house and check to see if anybody's home?), but hey, at least she actually did locate the Essential Secondary Character Who Holds Many Ancient Secrets, and I can call it practice writing.

Now it's off to make dinner and wonder what the heck to do with the rest of my night. Toodles! (Or something less annoying.) TTYL.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

901 words tonight. I'm stunned at how quickly they came. I know it won't always be this easy, but I'll enjoy it when it happens.

I told hubs the plot of the story and he says it's a hard one to tackle for a first plot. I'm not sure if he's right, though he does have an uncanny sense of narrative cohesion, but I believe in this plot so much. I love the seed from which the idea sprang. I love the characters. I love the story. I hope I can do it justice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eeeked out another 835 words and found enough tiny plot holes to make it look like wasps have built a nest in my story.

I think my biggest problem is that I'm not good at juggling multiple story line or subplots or background character arcs, so when I reach the point where one of those subplots or character arcs is supposed to intersect with the main plot, which I'm currently writing, I realize that the character motivation or subplot that drives the next event in the main plot is missing. I keep having to put little notes in the margins to remind myself to go back and add this and that, and I'm hoping that I actually catch them all and am able to make a cohesive novel.

Today I'm asking myself why in the world I'm doing this. I always knew that writing a novel would be incredibly hard work, which is why I spent so many years resisting the urge to do so, and now I'm discovering that it's about ten times harder than I thought it would be. And about 80% of the time I don't really believe it will go anywhere, which really makes me wonder what in the world I'm doing this for. But then I come back to the harsh answer: I spent 12 years trying to grow up and get over the desire to write a novel, and it didn't work at all. I'm hoping that at least this way I'll know that I gave it my best shot and find some kind of peace through that.

Then 20% of the time I'm totally delusional and start believing I might actually write something worth reading someday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Freaking, Cleaning, Writing

Today I am freaking out because I cannot find my Ipod. I'm going through major NAME OF THE WIND withdrawal, and I can't get my Writing Excuses fix. I'm in danger of missing my Appendix fix tomorrow! Aaaaaahhhh!

I thought the Ipod might be on the top shelf of my craft closet, which looked like this.

I cleaned the closet and did not find it, but at least the closet now looks like this. Still jonesing for WE, though. They did Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E. quotient in this one!

In other news, I cranked out 735 words. I felt like I could keep going, but lots of authors say to stop when you feel like you're rolling, so I stopped. I'm hoping that tomorrow I can pick up with a decent head of steam.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Cat. The Chair. The Word Count.

Today, in between dinner and diapers and making playdough and a marble run, I managed to eek out 565 words. Tonight, instead of eeking out another 500, this is what I did instead.

Oh wait, before I can show you what I did, I need to show you what the wretched beast I call my cat did.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:
Just to be clear, that is not one, but two different pieces of furniture.

So, I got to spend my night with some 8 pound fishing line, a needle, and a desk lamp in orde to do this:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

He's cute and I love him, but there was a brief moment when I wondered if I had accidentally sewn the chair shut with him in it. Then I wondered if that would really be so bad.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Oh, The Irony

See! I swore that I would be a responsible poster and post on Thursday, but I did not. I've never been very good at schedules.

Here's the thing. I've always wanted to be a novelist, but I treated that dream like one of the whac-a-moles at a kid's pizza place. Every time it popped its head up, I'd say, "No! Stupid dream!" And I'd smash it down hard with a padded club.

I still had a writing jones, though, so I started a frugal living blog several years ago. I got responses and praise and a little money right away instead of scribbling in broke, unresponsive silence for eight years, which was the fate I knew awaited all fools who tried to write novels. That was sort of nice, but after a few years, I realized I didn't love it anymore. I wanted to be writing stories, not articles on the seven steps to maximize credit card offers. Plus, I was using WordPress (such a big mistake), and I couldn't keep up with all the updates and widgets and gadgets and twidgets and links and finks and tweaks. I wasted so much time trying to learn Wordpress. I still cringe when I think of it. And there was the networking. The linking and blog circling and the daily submissions and guest posting and the affiliate coordinating and blah blah blah blah blah! I realized that I kind of hated blogging.

So after I confided some of my blogging frustrations to hubs, he said, "Stop blogging and do what you want to do! Try to write a novel!" (He was actually telling me to quit blogging and start noveling from the beginning.) It took several years, but I finally agreed with him.

So, I put blogging behind me and started attending conferences and listening to "Writing Excuses" and "The Appendix" and Farland's Author's Advisory. And you wanna know the first thing those meanies told me? (Stop laughing! Stop it right now!) Those mean published, professional writers all agreed that if I wanted to be a successful novelist . . . I was going to need a blog.

Oh, the irony.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Liebster Award!

Look at that! It's been nearly a month since I posted. See, this is why I hope that self-publishing doesn't become the norm. I suck at the whole networking/promoting/getting out there thing. In fact, I have a story about my suckage at that, but that's for later.

Anyway . . . I got an award! I've never cared about blogging awards, but I do like Robin (who has a freakishly high amount of freakishly positive energy, can I just say?), so I was pleased to receive it. When Robin gets published (which she totally will), I will say that I knew her when and that she gave me an award!

Now presenting . . .
It's for bloggers who have under 200 followers. It may also have a subtle tint of "Get your tail in gear and blog more often," but that could just be for me.

Now here's the hard part. I have to find five other bloggers who have less than 200 followers and give them the award. The challenge? Blogs with less than 200 followers are kinda hard to spot, given their relative visibility to other blogs and stuff. Lemme see here . . .

Shoot. I just checked my blogroll. They all have more than 200 followers. Now I feel lame and guilty of false consciousness.

So, in the spirit of the award, I commit to begin following five blogs with less than 200 followers. I can't give them the award, mostly because they've all already received it. From Robin, which is how I know about them. But I can add them to my blogroll and shower them with love.


And Then She Was Like Blah Blah Blah
Writing Without Regret
Nancy S Thompson
and . . .
J. Scott Savage! (Robin directed me there.) You knew she'd come through for me!

Oh shoot. Robin linked to five under-200 bloggers, but one of them was me. Okay. I will add four under-200 bloggers and next time I stumble across a fifth, I will add it. But for now I have to go stop my children from eating the poisonous mushrooms in the front yard.

Much love,


Friday, July 8, 2011

Rock On, Baby

Yesterday, a friend of Hubs called and invited Hubs to pull an all-nighter driving to, attending, and driving home from a Toad the Wet Sproket concert. It was completely last-minute notice, it was a work-night, we shouldn't really afford the ticket, and Hubs is, you know, not a college student. He's a real-live adult with kids and responsibilities and a department to supervise. I told him he absolutely must go.

I wanted him to go because if he, a 30 year-old man with three kids and a nine-to-five job could hop in a car and drive 2 and a half hours to attend a rock concert, there's still hope for surprises in our world.

I don't know about you, but I feel like I can see the next 30 years unspooling in front of me pretty predictably. I know right where things are going, and they're not bad, they're just . . . predictable. It's nice to know that it's still possible to wake up in the morning and have that day turn out differently than we thought it would in big and positive way. Not a my-child-got-abducted-way or a I-thought-we'd-have-tacos-but-instead-we-had-spaghetti way, but a real, surprising, still-making-fond-memories-for-when-we're-old-way.

So rock on, baby! Rock on!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Can We Talk About THAT?

"In 6th grade I read something about father's [sic] molesting their daughters. So, I stopped hugging my dad for over a year. I love my father. I can't imagine how much I hurt him." (Warren, Frank. MY SECRET. 2009.)

Did #yasaves her?

"We used to have these “Scholastic Book Fairs” in elementary school. They gave me a book for free. The girl gets raped! In detail! I was nine! I was not prepared for that!" (kaylen. Commenter on "Think of the Parents" from the blog SCOTT WESTERFIELD. July 7, 2011.)

What about her? Did the supposed "catharsis" the reader achieves by reading about evil make it worth the harm she feels that book did to her?

There are ideas and realities that young readers are not yet ready to face. When they're exposed to those ideas too early, it does real, demonstrable harm to their lives. Can we talk about that?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Morning Writing

Baby Girl Doll woke me up at four this morning. I fed her until about 4:45, at which point I told her that it was time we both admitted that she wasn't actually getting any milk and put her back in bed. I really wanted to go back to bed myself, but as I was drifting off to sleep I had a quick self-meeting and decided to be a go-getter. Sleep is for the weak! I hauled myself out of bed, ate a peach, and began slamming away on the keyboard. I worked from 5:06 to 6:07 and wrote 2066 words.

Morning writing is a dilemma for me because I don't feel that I'm at my best in the morning, but I love knowing that I've finished the most important and most challenging task for the day before anyone else has even gotten up. My days seem to go so much more smoothly when I start them with a thousand words. I hope that if I keep doing it, I'll start feeling like I'm able to bring my A game every morning.

I want to build up my stamina. It would be awesome if I could go for a whole two hours and get four thousand words, but after an hour, my fingers start fumbling the keys. Right now, for instance, I'm having to type really slowly or go back and fix almost every word. I wonder if that's fatigue or what.

I'm also wondering if my character is annoying. She's a really rich, three-dimensional character (at least in my head), but at the beginning of the book she has a couple fairly nasty encounters with something of which she has a serious phobia, and I'm wondering if she's going to come across as weak and/or irritating because she's spending so much time screeching and/or needing help. We'll see. I've got a couple of other conflicts in which she conducts herself with some measure of strength. We'll see if they're enough to balance out the girly hysteria of the other scenes.

6:15 AM and not a soul awake. What to do? What to do?

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Love Irises

The house on the corner has a gorgeous iris bed over which I sigh every time I drive past. I, on the other hand, managed to kill all the purple irises in my own modest bed by digging them up and storing them in water while waiting to transplant them. Yes, water. I was a moron; there's no excuse. I tried to buy more irises online, but I soon realized that iris starts are really expensive. It would cost upwards of a hundred bucks to replace the ones I'd destroyed.

So the other day, I was driving past the iris-house and I noticed a small hand-printed sign on orange cardstock. Being the yard sale aficionado that I am, I craned my neck to read it, and I nearly drove into the ditch when I saw what it said. "Free iris starts."

Iris starts? Free???

It took me an entire weekend to get up my courage to knock, but today I had a moment of carpe dieming, so I pulled into their driveway, and the sweetest lady opened the door before I had even knocked.

It was awesome. They had decided they couldn't keep up with their iris beds, and they'd decided the most efficient way to get the beds cleaned out was to offer free iris rhizomes to anyone who wanted to dig them up. There were at least 12 different colors, and I left with several rhizomes of dark purple, purple, lavender, white tinged with lavender, orange, light blue, yellow, and mauve. I stocked all three of my flower beds and have enough leftover to share with my neighbor, my mom, and my sister.

Any day that includes improving my flower beds is a good day, and today was fantastic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm just not a very good blogger. Sure, I have lots of opinions and experiences, but who doesn't? I'm not sure mine are worth writing about.

We just installed air conditioning. It's a ridiculous extravagance, but it keeps the house cool, and it smells good.

I like to try things, particularly things about which people make big claims, mostly because I'm curious and I want to see what they're like and if they really work.

I've tried:

  • Selling Mary Kay. It was a disaster. It totally does not sell itself.
  • Both natural and medicated childbirth. Natural all the way. It's way more painful, but delivery and recovery are super fast. My last kid was seventeen minutes from the hospital door to baby's arrival. Plus, I'm more in control. Speed and being in control are important to me.
  • Those things that promise free gift cards for trying certain products. Awesome. I had to read up on them a lot to catch all the gotchas and rules, but once I got them, I made a few thousand bucks from the programs. (But don't go rushing out and try them now. They've closed all the loopholes that allowed the programs to be profitable.)
  • Square foot gardening. Loved it. The soil was super expensive, though, and lasagna gardening did not keep my quack grass from taking over said super-expensive soil.
  • That thing at Lagoon where you strap yourself in a ball and get thrown a bajillion feet in the air. Awesome, but not awesome enough to be worth the price of admission or the risk of leaving my mommyless.
  • Weight Watchers. Worked for me but not for my breastfeeding baby. The doctor said 1500 calories was plenty for both of us, but it was not.
I really want to try:
  • That pedicure where tiny fish eat your dead skin.
  • That herb that makes everything taste super sweet.
And now I want to try this Mary Kay makes-your-face-magic serum. It's taken me several years (like seven?) to get over the horror that was my stint in Mary Kay enough to admit that they might actually have some decent products. My mom was raving about this stuff she tried, so I looked it up on It actually has pretty good reviews. And believe me, if you've been wearing skin in Idaho for thirty years, you pay attention to the possibility that something will fix damaged skin. Problem is--55 bucks for a month's supply? Um. . . no. However, I have a friend (or two. Because I'm popular like that.) who will sell it to me at cost. I might just try it. Then I'll have something else to post about.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Which I Hate Michael R. Collings

Dear Mr. Collings,

Your book The Slab is torturing me. See, when I start to read a well-written book, which yours is, a tiny bit of me gets trapped in that book's world until I finish it. If it's a fun world, reading the book can be an exhilarating race, a leisurely stroll, a mellow basking, depending on the book. If it's a horrible world, reading the book is more like an exorcism. (That's why I read "The Road," in one sitting. I had to get the heck out of there.) Guess which of the two types your world is.

Unfortunately, it was my husband who bought your book at CONduit 2011, so when he suggested that we read it together, I had no choice but to agree. And it's slow! We can read one, maybe two, chapters a night before bed (yes, before bed, so thanks for that), and it's going to take me forever to finish the book, during which time a small part of me will be trapped in 1066 Oleander. I am very tempted to lie to my husband and finish the book without him, but I have a feeling the house would frown on marital deceit.

Mr. Collings, what are you doing to me?


Heidi Tighe

PS: We just finished the scene with Brady and Kyle, and now I hate you even more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mwa ha!

In accordance with yesterday's realization that really all I can do if I want to be a writer is write and try to muddle my way through writing well later, I dragged myself out of bed at quarter to six to spit out a thousand words. A thousand words seems to be a magic number. If I'd been faithful about writing a thousand words a day since CONduit last year, I'd've written 365,ooo words thus far. That's a third of the magic million. That's 4 or 5 YA novels. In that time, I would have HAD to improve somewhat, right? Right?

I started my current WIP over. Again. I think this is the fifth time. But this time I have to stick with it. I may not go back and start over, no matter how bad and lumbering I think it is.

But really, experienced writers give some pretty bad advice on this front. There's the famous, "Books aren't written, they're rewritten," but there's also the equally famous, "The book's end should be inevitable from its beginning." Which is it? Does the beginning have to be perfect or not?! It's this conundrum that gets hapless wannabees like me writing the beginning of every book six different times and crying when they go to bed because it's still not good enough, whatever form good enough takes.

But anyway, I wrote a thousand words, and that feels pretty good. That gives me permission to focus on being a mom for the rest of the day. I can write if I want to, but if I don't want to, I'm off the hook. Mwa ha.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Just Had a Thought

Lately, I've begun to believe that instead of trying to become proficient at things they're clearly not good at, people should try to leverage the things that they are good at in order to make up the gap. (This is based on a lot of evidence that shows that if you're not already good at something, even intense study will yield only marginal improvement.)

It just occurred to me, though, that by trying so hard to outline, that's exactly what I'm doing--I'm playing to my weaknesses instead of to my strengths. The reason I want to outline is so that I don't waste a bunch of time and energy writing something when I'm just going to have to go back and write a whole bunch of new/additional/substitute stuff anyway, yet generating text quickly is actually what I'm good at. So why have I been trying to outline, which I'm not good at, in order to avoid having to create more text, which I am good at?

It's because I have an efficiency compulsion, that's why. But I'm going to try abandoning it and just writing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm Not Really a Journey Kind of Gal

I'm not really a journey kind of gal. I like destinations. I set measurable, predictable goals (some big, some small), and I power through until I reach them. This attitude is not helpful in the non-predictable, non-measurable field of writing, but I can't seem to change it. Maybe I should create an artificial goal toward which I can power through because trying to convince myself that it's all about the journey of writing isn't working for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hubs is out of town, and I had very serious plans to celebrate by blowing off everything and going to bed early. I tucked the kids in, told the cat to leave me alone, brushed my teeth, washed my face, shut down my computer, and wrote in my journal. Then I walked past the office and the computer made fun of me, calling me a weakling and a quitter. I replied that I was fine with being a quitter for one night, and it asked me how many more "one nights" I planned on getting away with. I sighed, booted it up again, made myself a quadruple batch of hot chocolate, and set the timer for an hour of BICHOK. (Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.)

I worked from 9:30 to 10:30 and wrote 2,005 words.

Now I'm going to bed.

Outlines are Hard, I Have Too Many Plot Lines, and George and Stinkin' Martha

Outlining is kicking my behind. I can get at most three or four sections plotted before my brain starts to dribble out my fingers and make a big ol' mess all over my outline. This has happened several nights in a row, so it may be a sign that I should only try to outline three or four sections a night and spend the rest of my writing time writing the scenes I outlined on earlier nights.

I've also got a problem with having too many characters and too many mini-plots. By too many, I don't mean more than are good for the novel (I think). I mean more than I, a novice writer, know how to handle effectively. I'm going to have to get some good mystery books and see how they handle a large cast of suspects, each of which is hiding something, just not the thing.

Speaking of getting books, I am sick of having my library privileges held hostage by "George and Martha" or, as my son now thinks it is called, "George and Stinkin' Martha." It wasn't even that great a book, and one day, the day before Thanksgiving. (Yes. Thanksgiving.) it vanished. I renewed it for about three months and then in April we found it! I grabbed it, thanked every deity that may or may not exist in this or any other dimension, and put it in a safe place.

Stinkin' safe place. I haven't seen the book since.

But I've decided that we've reached the point of ridiculousness. (Ridiculum is, Firefox informs me, not a word. It should be.) I'm going to shell out the twelve bucks for "George and Stinkin' Martha" and ransom my library card! Then I will read many, many more books. That will make me write better. It always does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Was Right! Outlining IS Getting Easier

I seriously wanted to call it a day tonight, but I could not. I didn't want to report that I'd been a quitter tonight.

I outlined 3.5 scenes during my writing hour tonight. I could have finished the final scene, but I wanted to stop while I still knew where I was going. Outlining is getting easier. I hope it's not getting easier because I'm doing a subpar job at it. I hope it's getting easier because I'm starting to understand it better. I'm even managing to work in a romantic subplot, which is impressive because I'm not crazy about them.

I'm going to need more than an hour a night if I want to get anywhere with this whole crazy writing pipe-dream. I have the time--it's not easy, but I can squeeze it out--but I don't have the stamina. By the end of they day, I'm totally wiped. I'd like to say that writing recharges me, and in a way it does recharge me for living and being a full, well-rounded person with lots to offer her job and her family, but it doesn't recharge me for more writing. By the end of an hour, I'm exhausted. I'm hoping that my stamina increases.

Today I was: a writer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Section Outlines and Annotated Bibliographies

As I muddle through scene outlines, I keep thinking about my students and their annotated bibliographies. When I introduce annotated bibliographies, my students are discouraged and, in some cases, despairing. It takes them an entire class period just to understand what they're supposed to do, and then the first annotation they write takes an hour. At the thought of writing fifteen of them, they practically revolt, but I promise them that if they keep trying, they'll a, have an easier time writing their papers and b, find that the annotations become easier and easier until, by annotation fifteen, churning them out becomes second nature. They don't believe me, but as someone who's been through the process, I know that I'm right.

I keep reminding myself of that as I outline. It's incredibly hard. I'm not sure I'm doing it right, and it seems like it will take me ages to complete enough section outlines to actually start writing. I keep reminding myself, however, that just like my students need to trust that the annotations are worth doing and will get easier, I need to trust that the section outlines will help me write better and are worth doing.

Tonight I muddled through some plot arcs and one section outline. I struggled, but tonight I was: a writer.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Plotting is Getting a Little Easier

Last night I was in an abyss of despair because I was certain that my plot was going to reach up through my intestines and strangle me from the inside out. Fortunately, 30 years of emotional overreaction has taught me that I can feel whatever I want, but I should be very careful not to believe or act on overly negative feelings. So, instead of sobbing or deleting files or throwing myself from the highest turret, I watched an episode of Doctor Who and went to bed. I felt a bit better in the morning.

Right before I started writing tonight, I read this article about inciting incidents. I loved it! It specifically answered my question: what if my inciting incident requires setup? Its answer was perfect: give the amount of setup you actually need and then punch the reader with the inciting incident. Then, I started reading Eric James Stone's Unforgettable, and I realized that he's got just such a situation. The inciting incident doesn't happen until about three chapters in because he's got to set up the story in order for the inciting incident to have meaning.

So, keeping those two things in mind, I started plotting again. This time I got through four scene sheets, and I think I'm starting to get the feel of how action and reaction play off each other. One thing that surprises me is how draining plotting is, despite the fact that I feel like I know where the plot is going. I can usually write for a good forty-five minutes before glancing at the clock, but tonight I was checking every five minutes. I'm starting to think that I either need to do my writing at two o'clock in the afternoon or take a serious caffeine jolt at 8 when the kids finally go down.

I've also noticed that reporting on whether I am a writer or a wannabee has a motivating effect. I really wanted to blow off writing tonight, but I couldn't bear the idea of admitting that I was a wannabee today. I did that once, and it sucked.

Tonight I was: a writer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ugh. Plotting. Ugh.

Well, I'm trying Marshall's plan for laying out section sheets. In an hour, I got through two. I'm just not very good at it, and just like I feared, I'm suddenly worried that my whole plot is so riddled with disaster that I'll never be able to do anything with it. I keep telling myself that it can't possibly be that bad and that there's a way to make it work. At least I've learned not to pay too much attention to how I feel about things when I'm tired. I'm usually wrong.

On an up note, I've noticed how crucial plotting is, and Marshall's action, reaction pattern really seems to work, at least based on the fact that I'm curious about how things end in his sample plot outlines.

Also, I notice I'm really tired by the end of the day when I sit down to write, and it affects how well I work. I might need to consider taking a nap, getting up early (though when I tried that, the work was actually much worse than it is now), or maybe eating better so I have more energy. Blah.

Today I was: A writer (though I feel like a wannabee).

Finished Step 4 of Marshall Plan

On Wednesday I told myself that I was too tired to write, which was a lie, and watched "Raising Hope" and "The Event" instead.

On Wednesday I was: a wannabee.

On Thursday, I started writing still high from the adrenaline rush of my son walking into my office with a dying bird in his hand (self, meet ceiling). I thought I'd be able to go for three hours, but as the adrenaline rush faded, I started to flag. I worked from 8:45 to 10:00 pm and finished seven character sheets, completing step 4 of the Marshall Plan.

Thursday I was: a writer.

Tonight I start on the plotting. That has me scared to death because I'm afraid that my plot, which seems decent right now, will fall apart once I try to put it into 48 six-page sections. Heck, maybe the whole Marshall Plan will end up being totally useless, but what do I have to lose by trying it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marshall Plan Step 3: Character Sheets

Worked from 8:36 to 9:50. Completed steps one and two of the Marshall Plan and started on step three, character sheets. Have written 4 of 12? character sheets. I'm having fun. I find myself learning more about my characters and falling more in love with each of them. If this were my first time writing a novel, I'd start getting excited and thinking that the vividness of each character is a sign that this novel is going to flow from me effortlessly and end up being a masterpiece. Because I've written two novels before, though, I know that this is just the easy honeymoon phase where I get to create characters and back-story. Once I start plotting and actually writing, I'll be hating books and writing and myself for ever thinking I could write. Oh well. The important thing is to not think about that and focus on what I'm accomplishing now.

Today I was: A writer