Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Novel Writing: The Opposite of Instant Gratification

So, I wrote a post on how I hit "The Wall" a few weeks ago. I was in a serious funk and hardly worked on revisions at all. I think the enormity of what needed to be done scared me. And honestly, it still scares me. After I finished the draft I marked it up summarized the new scenes I wanted to write, but when I started writing, something happened. I started writing from a second character's POV, and I loved it. This changes a lot of things. Now I can't follow my marked up draft and new summaries perfectly, because I have another POV to think about. I still don't know exactly how I'm going to do this. I still haven't figured it all out. I think what scares me is that after I finish revising, I'll have to revise again and again and again. I have this vision of my story, and it's so awesome and perfect and I can see how amazing it COULD be. The hard part is figuring out how to get it to that stage...and it might take a while. And a lot of drafts.

This is why it's hard: because the hours put in and the work done and the sleep lost do not show instant results. For some writers, the results may come faster and easier than others. For me, it feels like it's taking an eternity.

Writing is NOT instant gratification.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but this is where I'm at. It's a long road ahead. There are no shortcuts. I guess I'm just starting to realize this. Sometimes I read about authors who can write a novel in such and such time and revise in such and such time, and I feel like I'm just SO. FAR. BEHIND. Like they're all on this happy writer's train and I'm standing in a field watching it go by, never to find it again.

But, as not to make this a whiny post, I will say this: I DO know that the time invested will be well worth it. The only way to make my story shine like it does in my "vision" is to put the work in, even if that means revising ten more drafts after this one. I believe in this story, and one day it will get there.

So, how is everyone else doing? :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Are You Thankful For?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a holiday in which a turkey is of utmost importance. There may even be an auxiliary turkey (yes, my family makes an 'auxiliary turkey'). And of course the stuffing. Oh, the stuffing. There will probably be some sort of cranberry sauce, various other side dishes and don't forget the PIE! It goes without saying that most of you will experience a food coma. I know I will. This is normal.

But besides the FOOD, what exactly is this holiday? Well, it's all in the name. I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get so caught up in the "holiday"--the preparation and planning and visitors and travel plans--that I forget it's supposed to be a day to give thanks. It's a time for thanksgiving.

So, here are a few things that I'm thankful for:

1. Jesus.

2. My husband and all of my family. Love you guys!

3. My friends, near and far. Some of my very closest friends live far away, which makes me sad, but I am beyond blessed to have such wonderful people in my life!

4. My health and the health of my family. This is not something to take for granted, and I am so grateful that so many of my loved ones are healthy.

5. Writing. I don't know what I'd do without it. It's the best possible outlet I could ever dream of, it's fun, it's challenging and frustrating at times, and it's a journey that I'm very thankful to be experiencing. It makes me alive.

6. And finally, you guys! I'm so thankful for the community of writers I've met this past month or so that I've been blogging and twittering. I never imagined that such an amazing group of people existed, all with the same passion for writing and reading and books in general. You guys rock!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! So, what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Do You Write?

Lately I've been noticing some of my writing quirks, and it got me thinking about how I write and the circumstances I prefer while writing.

For example, while I was drafting I preferred to write OUT, like at a cafe. I also preferred to have a hot beverage, like coffee or tea, while writing.

Now that I'm revising, I prefer to write at home. Preferably on my couch. Preferably with a hot beverage. But I'm also noticing that I can't concentrate if anyone else is in the room. I've tried to put earbuds in and listen to music, but that doesn't really cut it. For whatever reason, I just cannot focus if someone else is there. As I write this, my husband is in the room and it's not distracting me at all, so apparently this just applies to novel writing. Anyway, because of this, my writing time starts around 11:30pm and ends around 2:00am. I usually never go to bed that late! But, alas, it's what's working for me right now. (Some of you might be wondering why I don't just go into another room. Sometimes I do! But I also concentrate better when nobody else is AWAKE and I'm REALLY alone :) I know...I'm only hurting myself here!)

I'm also learning that I like to use a fresh document every time I sit down to write. This is a really new thing that I just discovered last week. I noticed that if I see a ton of words in the document, all I can think about are those words and if they're good enough and if that's really how I wanted to execute that scene. But if I skim over what I last wrote to get into the mindset, and then start writing in a fresh, blank document, I can write more...and also write better. A blank page makes me feel more creative and free, if that makes sense. Then once I'm done I paste it into the original document. Voila!

I really do wish that I could write anywhere, at any time, with or without anyone in the room. I know that I COULD if I had to (though I DO think my best work happens under my preferred circumstances). I'm not sure if these quirks are temporary or permanent (hopefully temporary!), but they are what they are.

So, what I want to know is this: How do you write? Do you have writing quirks, preferred circumstances, etc.? I'm very interested to know!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Fun! Quotes Edition

Happy Friday! Hope you all have a great weekend. Here are some quotes to leave you with:

And finally...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Procrastination Slash The Evils of the Internet

You sit down to write. You're armed with water, a hot beverage and a snack. You open your word processor and skim the last few paragraphs you wrote the day before. You're ready to go.

You start typing. Clackity clackity clack. Happy writing! Yay! Things are going well.

And then, something happens. Something not unusual. You type a word, read the sentence back, and realize that you need a synonym. That word just doesn't work. Suddenly, there is a voice. An icy, ragged voice in the back of your mind, and it whispers "Use meeee."

You give it no thought. You're a writer, after all. You hear voices frequently. Now back to this word that does not work. You need a synonym, so naturally, you need a thesaurus. You minimize your word processor and open up your web browser, finding your favorite online thesaurus.

But wait! You see something in one of your tabs...is that a new email? Abruptly, the cold voice is back. "Use meeee," it pleads. "I've brought you a gift! Look in your inbox."

Enticed, you click on your Email tab...and behold! TWO new emails! And oh! One of them is from your critique partner, the other is from Twitter, informing you that someone replied to one of your Tweets. These ARE gifts!  You open the email from your critique partner, relishing every word they write about your MS. You must reply to this email at once to ask their opinion on problem number 2 in MS, and also discuss what they pointed out, and also find out what they think about the heroine doing that thing in chapter 9. And so you do. You send the email out, feeling satisfied.

"Use meeee."

What? Oh. That voice is back again.

"You've forgotten your other giffftt!" it rasps.

Oh, right. Twitter! You click on the person's reply. Hahah, oh, this person is so funny! Hm, you wonder, what is everyone else up to on Twitter?

"Go look!" the voice urges.

Yes. Yes, you think you WILL go look. Besides, you should probably reply to your reply, anyway. You scroll through the Timeline, reading everyone's tweets, and reply to your reply, spending a little too much time trying to think of something witty and funny to say.

"Look! Look over there!" The voice says. You think you hear a gritty, low laugh, too, but you aren't quite certain.

What does the voice want you to look at? Oh! Someone just posted a new blog post! This person writes quality blog posts. You click on the link and read gleefully. You notice in their "Labels" section that they have a label for Writing. Well, hey! YOU'RE interesting in writing.

"Check it out!" the voice says.

You think this is an excellent idea. The blogger probably has some sterling things to say about writing, which will help you with your OWN writing. Wow, there are so many posts on writing! How wonderful. You read and read and read, so thoroughly entertained and enlightened.


What? What was that? Was that you, Voice? Suddenly, you realize that HOURS have past. You're supposed to make dinner and get ready for that thing tonight and clean the kitchen and OH MY GOSH your writing time is gone?! Noooooooooo!!

"Wait! I brought you another present!" The voice says.

Absolutely not! Who is this voice, anyway? "It's all your fault, Voice! This is ALL YOUR FAULT. Who are you? Show yourself like a man!"

The voice laughs darkly. "You know who I am. I bring you emails and Tweets. I give you information and entertainment and endless possibilities!"

You gasp, realizing how stupid you've been. "Internet," you say breathlessly. "You've been enticing me this whole time when all I really wanted was to find a synonym!"

The Internet clicks its tongue at you. "You silly, silly writer. Don't you know that you have the POWER to deny me? But alas, I have won."

You fume, your mouth becoming smaller and smaller as you realize the Internet is RIGHT. "Darn you, Internet!" you cry.

The Internet does not yell back, for he is content. "Until next time," he says.

And you close your web browser, your word processor, and your computer down, defeated. THIS time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Am A Writer

I am an amateur writer. I make mistakes. I spell words wrong and use bad grammar (poor grammar?). My sentence structure can be improved upon. My word choices should be reconsidered. My voice, my plot, my characters...they all need work.

I am a slow writer. I take my time. I procrastinate. I avoid, daydream, and get distracted. I delete, rewrite, and delete again.

I am a fearful writer. I'm afraid that the story in my head won't translate to paper the way I imagine it. I'm afraid that nobody will like what I write. I'm afraid that I won't get better. I'm afraid that I'll fail my story and myself.

I am an insecure writer. I read what I've written and gag. Delete, delete, delete. I read my favorite books and think, I'll never be that good.

I am a wandering writer. I wander into life and excuses and daydreams. I wander into other people's books for a while. I wander into new ideas and neglect my main project. I wander through my main project--aimlessly.

I could go on. And on. And on.

But I am also this:

I am a determined writer. I see my weaknesses and am prepared to overcome them. It will be hard. It will be work. But it's worth it to me.

I am a steady writer. I may not write quickly, but I write enough. I set realistic goals for myself and I do them. I finished my draft this way, and I'll finish my revisions this way.

I am a conquering writer. I am aware of my fears and insecurities, but I don't let them stop me. Sometimes they delay me. Sometimes they grieve me. But they don't defeat me.

I am a loyal writer. I don't always write every day. But my writing is constantly on my mind, popping up at odd times and even times and all times. Sometimes I wander, but I always, always come back.

So I've come to accept this: I am a writer.

I may be an amateur, slow, fearful, insecure, and wandering. I may be determined, steady, conquering, and loyal. But I also write. And that makes me a writer. No adjective needed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Music and Writing and Stuff

You guys!

...I don't know. I just wanted to say that. But anyway, happy Friday! I'm currently listening to If I Die Young by The Band Perry, and I think I'm obsessed. Nay, I KNOW I'm obsessed. I literally cannot stop listening to this song on repeat. If you've never heard it, here you go (and you're welcome):

She's holding a book of Tennyson's poems, and at the very end they show a page from the poem The Lady of Shalott. *sigh* So romantic! And tragic, too, obviously.

This has got me in a dreamy, romantic mood, which is NOT the state of mind I need to be in to write. My story is not like that. Though now I want to write a story with this mood in mind. *tucks away for later* I do have a playlist for my current story, but I've been listening to the same songs for over a year and honestly, they've lost their magic. I think it's time to find new songs that capture the same mood. Also, I'm considering listening to music without lyrics for a change of pace, and also because sometimes the lyrics can be a bit distracting while trying to write.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I've chucked my revisions so far and am starting from scratch? Yup. I wasn't so far along that it really matters, it was only a couple thousand words or so. But seeing that blank page fills me with a kind of energy to write, and to make it good. When I had all those words on the page that I knew were just wrong, it sucked away my will to write. And now I'm excited again :)

SO...new Word doc., new playlist, new attitude. Well, I haven't got the playlist yet, but I will soon. Any suggestions? I need darkish stuff, but nothing too heavy. Does that make sense? One song from my playlist that will stay is Teardrop by Massive Attack, because it really captures the mood. The song itself, not the video. The video is weird. But here ya go:

I think it's so interesting how music can really affect mood and your state of mind. It's pretty cool. Except times like now, when all I want to do is listen to The Band Perry and daydream!

Do you guys listen to music while you write?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Wall

Sometimes you're just chuggin' along, writing your story, happy and productive, and then...BAM! You stop. You look around, wondering what caused this sudden stop, but there's nothing but open fields all around. There's even some flowers and a light, refreshing breeze. You should be sailing, FLOATING through your writing at this point. Maybe you even have an outline. Maybe your draft is done and you're revising. This stop was unplanned and unsolicited.

So, you take a step forward, anticipating getting your groove back. Except...your foot hits something hard and invisible, and you can't move. You try again, with more effort this time. But nope, there's something in the way. Something huge and invisible. Something that is STOPPING YOU from writing.

No, it is not "writer's block". You have ideas and you know what needs to be done. The problem here is something far, far different:

You've hit The Wall.

The Wall is a point at which you cannot seem to go on. You have halted, and you don't know why. "Noooooooo!" You say in slow motion with a deep, tortured voice. And to that I reply "Yes," in an annoyingly calm tone. Now, I'm no expert on The Wall. The Wall can take on many forms and can be battled with many weapons. Here, I will list just a few of the ways that you can battle The Wall.

1. Go around The Wall. This may seem obvious, but The Wall is actually quite long--endlessly long. The tactic for this is to acquire an automobile to DRIVE you around The Wall. Attempting this by foot is not advised. Every hundred feet or so, you must veer sharply in the direction of The Wall to see if it's still there. If it is, keep driving. If it isn't...you've found the end of The Wall! Note: The time that it takes you to find the end of The Wall may be considerable. During this time, it's suggested that you have a brainstorm sesh and go over your outline for inspiration and motivation.

2. Burrow under The Wall. Your weapon of choice here is a shovel. Yes, you are going to work up a may-jah sweat. First, you must assess WHERE you are currently standing in relation to your writing. You want to be able to emerge from the other side of The Wall at the exact place where you wish to continue. This means that you must take a good, long stare at the writing that you have already done to gain vision for the writing that lies ahead. Is what you've already written REALLY what you wanted to write? Did that character take a wrong turn somewhere? Did you go on a sub-plot tangent two chapters back and now you're stuck in a place you don't want to be? Could that thing have happened differently in a better way which makes that other thing possible? You need to figure this out before you start digging, or else you'll end up far, far away from the vision on the other side of The Wall. Once you've figured out where the problem is, FIX IT, and then start burrowing. You will be on the other side of The Wall in no time. (Actually, it will probably take a while. But the point is that you WILL be on the other side of The Wall!)

3. Climb over The Wall. The evident choice here would be to use a ladder, but if that's what you were thinking, you have clearly underestimated the sheer HEIGHT of The Wall. They don't make ladders tall enough to climb over the wall, or EVERYONE would be climbing over their Walls and there would  be no point to this post, now would there? No, you must use a long rope with a grappling hook to SCALE the wall. First, you must find the point at which you want to throw the hook. As with burrowing under the wall, proper placement is key. You have a decision to make now: Do you throw the hook right where you stand, and just continue on with your writing wherever you land on the other side? Or, do you aim to throw the hook so that you end up on a new path? This is a tough decision, but quite necessary to battle The Wall. Think hard.

4. Demolish The Wall. Weapon of choice: wrecking ball. Some of you may not want to take the time to brainstorm, go over your outline, or rewrite stray scenes. Maybe you don't care if you will have a mess to clean up later, you just want to KEEP GOING. If that's the case, this is the tactic for you. It's quite simple and straight-forward, really. You must LAUNCH the wrecking ball at The Wall, which may or may not require you to operate heavy machinery. Watch with glee as The Wall crumbles, invisible pieces of it flying everywhere. Repeat this until there is a gaping hole in The Wall which you can walk right through. Once on the other side, DO NOT look  back at the mess you have made (though it is invisible, you will be able to FEEL it). Just keep going, and worry about the mess later.

And so, as you see, you have many options for battling The Wall. Currently I am standing in front of my own Wall, assessing the situation. Normally, I think I'd  be more of a burrower, but since I'm still at the beginning of revision and there won't be too much of a mess, I think I'll go with demolishing it. And anyway, one of my writer friends graciously loaned me a wrecking ball.

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Evening With Maggie Stiefvater

This weekend was wonderful (whoa alliteration) for many reasons:

First, I went to a close friend's bachelorette party.

Second, I had amazing sushi.

Third, I met the New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater. And SHE. IS. AWESOME.

Maggie Stiefvater is one of my absolute favorite authors, so I was beyond thrilled when I found out she was doing a signing near me. For those of you who don't know, Maggie is a bestselling YA author, most known for the Wolves of Mercy Falls Series which includes Shiver, Linger, and Forever. She is also the author of Lament and Ballad, and her newest novel is The Scorpio Races, which I just started reading and absolutely LOVE.

This was the first author event/signing I've ever been to and I went alone, so I was slightly nervous since I didn't know what to expect. But I had nothing to be nervous about because Maggie is just SO nice and funny and an overall amazing person. There were probably around 100 people there, so the turnout was pretty good. When I got there I settled into a seat and waited in anticipation for Maggie to appear on stage.

For the first segment of the event, Maggie spoke for about 20-30 minutes. And let me tell you, she is SO funny. I'm talking hilarious. She's very passionate about the stories she tells and puts on these crazy voices for emphasis. She spoke about the "Ten Steps for writing a Maggie Stiefvater Novel", which I now wish I wrote down. I'll try to remember them for you, though I can't promise they are in order.

So here they are, the Ten Steps for writing a Maggie Stiefvater Novel, from Maggie herself (each step was explained with a Maggie-style story):
1. Come up with an idea.
2. Pick a "mood" for the novel.

3. Know the ending.
4. Do the research.
5. Start writing.
6. Somebody has to die within the first chapter or so.
7. There is no step 7.
8. Add food to the novel. Yes, food. (She even invented her OWN food for The Scorpio Races, called November Cakes. You can find the recipe on her blog here.)
9. Ummm...yeah, I don't remember this one.
10. STEP 10 I REMEMBER! Because it was this: Forget all of these steps. :)

And there you have it, the 10...er, 9 steps for writing a Maggie Stiefvater novel! After she finished speaking, she opened up the floor for Q&A, and then she signed books. She was very generous to sign the 4 books I brought--Shiver, Linger, Forever, and The Scorpio Races.

She even doodled in my copy of The Scorpio Races!

In the little "program" the library gave us, it included the recipe for Maggie's November Cakes, along with Maggie's recipe for "Cookies The Size of Your Head". I am going to make these cookies tonight because I am CRAVING chocolate chip cookies. And since Maggie is obsessed with cookies/cookie dough, I don't think she'll steer me wrong. If you'd like this cookie recipe, you can also find it on Maggie's blog here. If you haven't read Maggie's books, I highly recommend them. Her writing style is unlike any other.

I hope you guys had a great weekend too! Let's make this a productive week!