Family, Fiction, Life, My Books, Novel, Real Life, Reflections, Writing

Why did I wait so long to get serious about writing?

Emily and Elijah at the zoo

I feel very old this week. Keeping up with small children is not something I do well any longer. Three days in a row this week, I had two of my grandchildren, ages five and seven, in my home. They were both sick with colds and still they wore me out.

I praise all who have care of little ones and still are able to write. If nothing else, the reason I waited so long to get serious about writing is clear to me now. I couldn’t even get my thoughts straightened out in snatches of free time, let alone write anything coherent. And by the time the kiddies were tucked in bed, all I could do was stare into space.

When my own four children were that young, I’m sure I had more physical stamina, yet the mental fatigue was just as bad. I sought refuge in books. I read. And read. And read some more. I took in a lot, and it mixed and fermented and formed into stories in my head, but I didn’t have the energy to write them down.

Let’s call that my writer’s training course. Long, long years of it. There are advantages to that, of course. I had a lot of life experience stacking up too. Intense research, we’ll call that. And to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t write down most of the stories that swirled through my head through those years. It was a time to watch and listen, not speak.

I’m happy to be approaching my career as a writer from a mature perspective. I’ve finally found my voice and have some things to say. Many novel’s worth.

Your turn: How does your age and circumstances affect your writing?

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Characters, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

This is the scary part

Yesterday, I forced myself to get serious about writing my next novel. (Yes, I was sick. Blame it on the caffeine in the chai I drank.) I’ve been making the preparations for this novel for months, even writing out several scenes. But this time, actually getting down that first chapter is tougher.

I’m struggling with voice, which is part of the problem. I know I haven’t locked into it yet for this main character, so my inner editor lurks in the background whispering, You’re going to have to rewrite all this, you know. Since I’m not a “shitty first draft” person, it’s difficult to ignore that voice and push myself to write on.

This character is a challenge in two ways. I know who she is as an adult because she was a second-tier character in my last novel, but this one starts with her at age twelve, so she hasn’t developed that adult personality yet. This maturing of a character is not something I’ve tried before. Also, this is the first time I’ve attempted to write a novel in first person.

Structure is another challenge. This novel will consist of three parts, portraying three different stages of her life. I will bracket each section with present tense narrative, while writing the majority of the book in past tense. Numerous times already, I’ve caught myself writing in present what should be in past tense. That’s weird because I normally write in past tense, though in third person, so maybe it’s the first person that’s throwing me off.

I deliberately chose these challenges to hone my craft, but this unfamiliar territory makes me uneasy. I’m getting quivers of fear I can’t pull it off this time, but I keep putting one word in front of the other. What else can I do?

Your turn: What are the writing challenges you’ve faced recently?

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Craft, Doubt, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Narrative, Novel, Revision, Tips, Writing

Spaghetti Gone Wild

Yesterday, in a Tweet to Kayla Olson, I described the state of my chapter-in-revision as spaghetti gone wild. Switching the order of the scenes had seemed a simple task. I had four scenes to deal with: one moves down, two move up, one stays in last place. No big deal. Next step: write/revise the narrative to link these scenes.

That’s when the mess began. I wrote words. I deleted them. I wrote different words. I deleted those too. Nothing felt right. Desperate, I thought maybe the fault lay within the scenes. Even though I’d loved them when I wrote them, I began to edit. I highlighted words, phrases, whole sentences I could improve, but I knew there was no sense working on those until I was sure they wouldn’t be cut. But then, the more I read the more I became dissatisfied. (If you’re a LOST fan, this is when I nicked the dural sac. :-))

Suddenly, none of it made sense to me. Everything was wrong. The writing was mediocre, the story silly, and I questioned why I wrote the chapter in the first place. When I realized I would rather play games than even open the file again, I knew I was in trouble. I now hated the chapter I once loved. Where had I gone wrong?

Without a clue, I gave up and played TextTwist, and as I did, I was reminded of way back when I first wrote about Jalal. I would write until I was out of words, and then I played Bejeweled. I don’t know why, but the background music brought Jalal’s voice to me, and I would play until I knew what to write next.

So, yesterday, as I sat there playing TextTwist, the fog lifted. This chapter was about Jalal, from his point of view, but I had ripped the heart out of it by trying to revise without him. I barged right in and started hacking away and shoving in more, without “getting into character” first. That’s how I totally screwed it up.

I must now step away (Or count to five? :-)) and listen until I hear Jalal’s voice. Then I’ll get this mess untangled.

Now, your turn: Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this.

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Photo credit: Susan at Timeless Gourmet

Books, Marketing, Opinion, Publish, Reader, Writing

Why will printed books go the way of the dinosaur?

The answer is simple, but first let me ask another question. How many of you still have a car phone, cassette player, VCR, or even analog TV? Not many, I would guess. I’m happy to have my iPhone, CD and mp3 players, Blu-Ray disc player, and widescreen, high-definition TV. They are all improvements. Does the eReader improve on traditional books?

For those who travel, eReaders are a joy. And think of the convenience when you’ll be able to download all the research materials you need from your local library—for free! Do you hate to see your kids lugging backpacks that weigh as much as they do? No more will they risk permanent spinal damage when they can download all their textbooks to an eReader. There are more pros—and cons—but let’s move on.

Printed books have been around since the mid-15th century. Isn’t it time for a change? Oh sure, we have audio books, but if we can, most of us still prefer to read the words ourselves. Until now, publishers of printed books have reigned supreme. But now they’ve been challenged—by the electronics industry.

We’re consumers. We’re techno-junkies. Of course we all want eReaders. And manufacturers are reveling in orgasmic glee because they know we all want the latest, shiniest, fastest version available and we’ll line up 24-hrs before they go on sale at midnight to get one. The content of the books won’t change, but the devices to read them will. Again and again.

Marketing genius is the real reason printed books will become obsolete.

Now, tell me, have you ventured into the eReader frontier? (For the record, I don’t own an eReader—but I’d be happy to try one if anyone’s feeling generous.)

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Advice, Critique, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Novel, Opinion, Questions, Read, Reader, Reader, Tips, Writing

Who do you trust?

Because I have a surplus of questions, but a dearth of answers, I’d like to trade a few of the first for more of the second. The big question today is: who do you trust to read your writing? But that’s too simple, so I’m going to complicate things with qualifiers.

I’m curious about how other writers get feedback on their work.

  1. Do you let anyone read your work in progress (first or second draft) or only when you feel it’s nearly polished?
  2. Do you have a spouse, or other family member, who reads and discusses your writing with you and if so, is this person a writer?
  3. Do you have a close friend who read for you—and if so, is this friend a writer? (Revised)
  4. Do you have a mentor?
  5. Do you submit your work to a critique group—and if so, is this a face-to-face or online group?
  6. Do you submit only in a workshop/class situation?
  7. Do you think writers should rely on their own skills and listen only to feedback from a professional (agent or editor)?

I’ll start first by saying that none of my family members read my work … or maybe I should say, not anymore. And I have only two non-writer friends who read my last novel—one in progress, the other read the short version. Other than that, I must depend on the kindness of strangers. Actually, that would be my critique group members and two writer friends who read my complete novel, and a couple more writer friends who gave me feedback on a story or two. Presently, I’m in a small face-to-face critique group, just four of us, and these other three have read my novel, some short stories, and a few versions of my agent query letter. This group is most familiar with my style—and also my faults—which makes them my valuable front line. And though I bug one or more of them by email between our monthly meetings, essentially it’s a rather “formal” arrangement. I’ve often wondered if I should seek feedback from real strangers in an online group (I used to do that ten years ago) or what it would be like to have a true mentor.

Okay, I gave you some of my questions; will you give me some of your answers?

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