Monday, October 31, 2011

To-Do Lists

Happy Monday slash Halloween!! Firstly, an announcement:

**FUN ALERT!!** For a special Monday treat that I had absolutely nothing to do with, I'd like to direct your attention to one of my favorite blogs for a SERIOUSLY COOL contest! Prizes included signed copies of super-fabulous books. And the best part is that the contest rules are incredibly easy. Now, go HERE to check it out! And also, you should follow this blog because it's awesome.

Now on to the regularly scheduled program:

I guess today might be slightly more fun for some of you with costumes and candy and festivities and such, but generally, Monday's have a bad reputation. You know, the whole work week, stress, and responsibilities thing. I get it. But Monday is quite important to me because it's the day that starts my weekly To-Do list. And I heart my To-Do list.

Some people have asked me how I managed to finish my first draft. Writing really looks different to everyone, and all writers have their own way of pushing through the draft. There's no "right" way to write a novel, but one thing is common in all writers: Persistence.

I mentioned in my profile that I'm obsessed with To-Do lists, so I figured I'd explain why. As a writer, I DEPEND on my list. I need it. I love it. Maybe that's a little too "structured" for some people, but it's how I do what I do. If I didn't have a To-Do list, my novel would never have been written. And without it I will never complete my revisions. Why? Because my list is comprised of GOALS, and goals propel me to keep a forward momentum. I like to work toward things. I like to complete tasks. I especially like to see check marks next to said tasks. It's like a signal to my brain that says, "Good job!" And it gives me the warm fuzzies. :)

My To-Do list is actually broken down into four separate entities. My yearly goals are the largest part of the cumulative "List". These are generally made around December of the previous year, kind of like New Year's resolutions. I break my yearly goals down into monthly goals. This makes them easier to tackle. My monthly goals, as you might imagine, are written on my monthly calendar which hangs on the wall by my desk. The monthly goal is then broken down into weekly goals, which are written in my weekly planner. This sits on my desk. Finally, my weekly goals are broken down into daily goals, which are on an app in my iPhone. With this app you can check off tasks as you complete them, and it actually shows little check marks! Those check marks are like PRIZES. I want to collect ALL the check marks! It's like a game! Sort of.

I know this sounds a little OCD, but if I didn't do this I would probably never get stuff done. I'm one of those people who suffers from the PROCRASTINATIONS. My lists help me overcome this debilitating disease.

So that's my "secret". That's how I keep myself going with my writing. I set goals, I break them down into smaller goals, and I DO THEM. I don't always get everything done on my To-Do list. Sometimes life happens and I fall behind. Sometimes I get lazy. Sometimes the motivation is just gone and I need to take a break. But the point is that I don't take a break forever because my list is waiting, and the satisfaction of completing it far outweighs the temporary satisfaction of being lazy.

With that said, it's time to get stuff done. I hope everyone has a wonderfully productive Monday!

How YOU do keep yourself moving forward?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Revision: a.k.a I Liken My Manuscript to Humpty Dumpty

First of all, happy Friday! Woo hoo! Don't you just love a good Friday?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently finished the first draft of my novel. This was a huge feat, and I'm proud of myself for actually finishing the darn thing. But the thing's not really finished.

At all.

Any writers out there will know what I'm talking about. Now that the joys of drafting are over, I can look back and see how naive I really was. Let me explain. To do this, I shall demonstrate my thought process over the course of writing the draft.

Beginning of book
Me: Wow, look at how much I wrote! I'm pretty good at this writing stuff. I'm totally going to be an author in no time.

Beginning of book
Me: Yes! The plot is thickening. I'm genius. GENIUS! The story is flowing! This is actually turning into a BOOK!

Middle of book
Me: Um...what is this story about again?

Middle of book
Me: I think I need an outline. Yeah, I really think I need an outline. What am I even writing right now? WHAT IS THIS CRAP?

Middle of book 
Me: Thank you, outline, for showing me the light. Yes yes, I know, I should have had you from the beginning. All that matters is that you're here now, and I love you. *caresses outline*

End of book
Me: La la la, Let me read everything from the beginning just to see how the story is flowing...GAH! The entire beginning needs to be changed. The. Entire. Beginning. How do I keep going when I can't stop staring at the mess that is behind me?!

End of book
Me: *deep breath* Okay. Everything is crap. It's crap, okay? But I kind of understand what the story is about now. I just need to finish this draft, and then make it the story I want it to be.

After the draft is done
Me: The first draft is done! Yes! YESSSS! I am awesome! No, I'm not. The whole thing is garbage and needs to be rewritten. *sobs*

To the untrained eye, this may look like I'm just becoming increasingly more negative. But really, that's not the case. What was happening was that I was learning what it means to put a story together, and that it's not easy, and it doesn't come out right the first time around. At least not for me.

When I first started writing I thought that you wrote your book, edited a little here, changed some words around there, and voila! Done. I realize now how utterly wrong I was. Revising is NOT just going through the story line by line and making the words pretty. It's much more than that. It's literally dissecting your manuscript scene by scene, wadding through the garbage to find the salvageable stuff, tightening the plot, the characters, the dialogue, throwing out A LOT, adding stuff back in, and trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. But making him prettier, smarter, and unbreakable. It's kind of overwhelming.

Yes, I just called my manuscript Humpty Dumpty. Except with revision, it's like he already fell of the wall once and is cracking all over, but I'm the one who has to push him off a second time to really BREAK him order to rebuild. Make sense, maybe? Am I just weird? OF COURSE I AM.

I'm still at the beginning stages of revision, but I can tell that this story will be QUITE different from the story I currently have. It's going to be an insane amount of work, and I have no idea how long it will take. But I do know that my story will be better for it. And that's really what matters, right? Because once that final draft is done (whenever that may be) I will finally have written the story I set out to write in the first place.

So, it's time to go push poor Humpty off the wall...he'll thank me for it later.

Oh! I almost's a nice little visual to leave you with for the weekend!:

This is a picture I took right after printing the draft for the first time. I was all proud and feeling artsy. The manuscript posed like a pro! Just looked at that nice clean stack of pages!

Okay, now to revise!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dare to Dream

So, here I am writing my first blog post. I honestly never thought I'd start one, but after spending hours upon hours reading various author blogs and websites, I got The Itch. As in, The Itch to start my own blog. As in, The Itch to create another outlet for procrastination, and hopefully amusement (for myself, obviously).

No, I am not an author, silly reader (is there anyone even out there?). Didn't you read the little profile blurb on the side of the page? No? Well, I suppose now's a good time to fill you in:

I am an aspiring author.

Bah! Writing that makes me squirm and want to hide under a blanket. It's kind of been my little secret for the past year and half, you see. I've been working on my first YA novel for almost two years and I just recently finished the first draft (woo!), but I've only told a select few people. Why? Well, to be honest, it's because I'm afraid of what people might think. I know the immediate reaction is probably along the lines of, "You want to be an author? Yeah, okay." Or, "Can know...write?" Which I perfectly understand. It's not something you hear everyday, and those who know me might write it off as a phase.

Here's another reason I've kept my writing on the down-low: When I'm finally done editing and revising my novel, I fully intend to query agents. And I expect to be rejected. I know it's a tough industry, and you have to be amazing to get an agent, let alone a book deal. Not everyone who reads my book will love it. So, the more people know about my dream, the more people will know when I get rejected. And I think that might be slightly embarrassing to put myself out there and let the world see me fail.

But here I am, "coming out". It's true, and it's my dream. MY DREAM! And I won't be embarrassed for having a dream and chasing it. Sure, it might not come true. Maybe I won't ever get published. Maybe I won't even get an agent. But I have hope, and I'm going to do all that I can to make this happen. And at the end of the day, published or not, it's about me doing something that I love.

Write. Create. Explore. Dream.

Right now it's about the journey. The process. The really hard work and the determination to get better. So, if you'd like, you can join me on this journey. Maybe some of you have secret dreams too? I'm sure you do. I hope you have the courage to follow them.

Until next time!