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Monday, February 25, 2013

Time Crunch

As I write this, it’s a rainy Sunday.  I haven’t posted here in over a week.  I’ve had to pick up extra hours at work as a result of the office being short staffed.  I hope this is temporary, but have braced myself in case it is not, since it eliminates the availability of the time I dedicate each morning to writing endeavors.  For the most part, I’ve been diligent with my Morning Pages, but this weekend, suffered a lapse.  Writing three longhand pages first thing every morning has helped me maintain a word flow but having missed both days this weekend, I feel guilty. 

Due to the lack of available time, I’ve returned to the schedule I kept when I used to work full time, back when my daughter was a high school student.  But, instead of getting up to prepare breakfast and lunches, I lean over to grab my notebook, put on my glasses, wrap myself in a shawl and pick up a pen.  On the positive side I’ve learned, at 5:30 a.m. it is more pleasant to write than to make sandwiches.  There’s an owl that hoots from one of the remaining trees in our side yard…though from the distance of his call I can tell the loss of six trees there recently has altered his location.   

While I’m writing, a grey wash lightens the sky in the west.  The yard out the picture window comes up like an old photograph floating in bin of developer.  My handwriting loops and scrolls.  On some days, I purge myself of anxiety, on other days I add to my current work in progress, on the best days, I do both.  Regardless, each morning, when I finish, I’m relieved when I review the neat, consistent cursive filling those pages.

I’ve read over and over, that if I want to bad enough, I can always find the time to write.  For now, it appears that predawn is my time. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Letter to Myself

I’ve never been an outliner.  In high school, when the teachers demanded outlines before we passed in our papers, I wrote my paper first then created the outline based on what I’d written.  I’m sure this indicates some kind of brain deficiency, a backwards way of thinking, but it was the only way that worked for me.  I couldn’t write an outline before I knew what I was going to write.
More recently, I’ve tended to write my stories in a similar fashion, although in order to avoid getting totally lost, I keep track of characters and locations in an Excel spreadsheet.  I keep it open while I write and each time I invent someone or something new, I add it to the table.   This helps me remember names and places…so I don’t call someone Simon in the third chapter, and Terrance in the 25th.  Separate from the spreadsheet, I write detailed character descriptions, so I know what each character looks like and what they eat for breakfast, so it's all good there.

But while helpful, these practices don't do much for plot. 

I began writing what I hope will be a new novel several months ago, but struggled. I had a main character; an inciting event, some periphery information plus thoughts of how things will end, but no idea how to get there.  Even I recognized an outline would have helped.  But similar to my struggles in high school, I couldn’t figure out how to write one, since I didn’t know the story.

Last week, I mentioned my dilemma to one of my amazing critique partners and she suggested I write a letter as if telling her the story.  Growing up, I was an avid letter writer, so this felt more like fun than an assignment.  Imagine my delight when during the process, the stages of my tale revealed themselves to me. The next time I sat down to work on the project, I knew where I needed to go.  I've been writing ever since.

So, while I, II, III, a, b, c and i, ii, iii may not work for me, I’ve learned something.  Regardless of how it's structured, it helps to have a plan.  Once that's in place, following it makes the writing easy.

How do you organize your writing?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Did She or didn't She?

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for IWSG.  To ready more posts, click here.

I’ve been playing mind games with myself.  Query letter, check.  Synopsis, check .  Edit by the AP English guru, check.  Requisite waiting period before reading manuscript again? Check.  Another wait, this one over-kill?  Check.  

In short, I inched my way toward ready.

I researched Publisher’s Market Place and Query Tracker, and read submission guidelines.  I built my own spreadsheet so I could track who I queried…yes, I know I can do that on QT, I just wanted my own.  There wasn’t much more I could to.  The trigger finger was itchy to press “send.”  I knew though, that it would be smarter to give it just a little more time.

Then I got this idea.  It may seem petty to some, but if you’ve been reading me for a while, you may have recognized that I can be a tad sensitive.  Like an elephant, it’s hard for me to forget and as I write this on January 31, I’m coming up on an anniversary.  On February 4, 2009, the pink slip from the 23 year job came sliding under the door.   Although I wouldn’t trade my accomplishments since for those heretofore hefty paychecks, I still get a touch grouchy around this time of year.  Damn it.  When they tell you they can live without you, it hurts.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get out from under that—if I could turn the date into a positive?  What if I earmarked February 4, 2013 to send my very first submission to an agent?  Might there even be some poetic justice involved?  In my way, wouldn’t that be like thumbing my nose at the former employer who dropped me on my bottom four winters ago?  I know it's petty, but I liked that idea.

But then, I got nervous.  I read a glorious book and hated my writing. I reviewed my first ten pages again.  I could still make them better.  So I did.  I re-read the first three chapters.  I could make them better too.  So I did.  Did that mean I needed to make the rest of it better?   Yep, I could and I did.  The cycle was about to repeat itself, yet again, when my-wise-beyond-her-years daughter said, “Mom, you will ALWAYS find things to change, you could do it forever.  It’s time.”  She was right.

But then, because I tend to be thorough when I worry, I had a massive panic over my query letter.  Thank you to my lovely critique partner who talked me off the ledge on that one.  Right after that though, I got superstitious.  What if February 4th is a bad day for me?  Maybe I shouldn’t go forward with something that means so much to me on that day.  Maybe I should wait.

So here you are, reading this on or about February 6, thinking, enough already.  Did she or didn’t she? She did!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Out with the Wind

I take a lot of pictures of the ocean.  On windy days, I’ll head down to watch with awe as the sea explodes upon the rocks and geysers over out lighthouse. I love watching the still waters of the harbor when the wind kicks up a heavy churn.  There is such magnificence about it and a comfort of watching the drama, as it happens far away.

At home though, in our house at the bottom of an incline, surrounded by towering pines and massive oaks, I’m less inclined to love wind and more disposed to worry.  

The day we moved in almost 21 years ago,  I looked out one of the picture windows to the grove of hundred foot pines out back and announced, “I don’t ever want to do a hurricane in this house.”

In the last year plus, we’ve dealt with two hurricanes. Both times, the weather folks had a field day, and I bought into their drama.  I purchased water, batteries and canned food we’d never touch otherwise. I wrung my hands when my husband drove 66 miles toward the storm the morning of Sandy to get to work, and I looked up at those darn pine trees and I prayed.  After both storms, we gazed at our intact trees and smirked, “That was a hurricane?”

The bad news is there wasn't much warning for what happened in our yard Wednesday night.  The weather man said it would be windy.  Well, he got that right.

The good news is no one was hurt and nothing happened to our house.  In the future, I’ll continue to respect the wind. Now though, I have a healthy appreciation for homeowners insurance.