Tag Archives: writing

06Jan/15

Beginning Again

I’m back to the fuss of a first draft again. It’s funny, because I have a little déjà vu about all the weird feelings I get when I start something new. I know I’ve felt exactly this anxious before, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it again.

I do have one great thing going for me this time: I know what my different drafts feel like. I’ve been through it enough times to know that I probably won’t have an actual structure until the third rewrite. Ugh. That sounds like so much work! Why can’t it be perfect the first time I write it?

At the same time, it’s fun right now. The first draft is so fun. There’s no voice to stick to, no locked-down POV, no chronological structure to limit my scenes. I can write about a thing that happened five years ago or something that will happen in two weeks. So what? I can describe a place that may or may not even show up in this book, just because the act of writing about it helps me see the world a little better. I can spend half the first draft with a character that doesn’t have a name, or a character that doesn’t even belong in this book.

I know it’s going to be like this in a few months when it’s time for the rewrite:

by Yusuf Toropov

 

… but for now, I’m having fun with it. It’s fun to be in a fantasy world again. I’ve been writing non-fiction for almost two years, so my only real fantasies were that I brushed my hair every day. Ha. Now, I get to talk to imaginary friends and travel a new world and find out all the secrets that only the characters know.

Have I mentioned it’s fun?

Ask me again in two weeks and I’ll tell you it’s a slog and that I want to tear my own eyes out. I know how this goes. I’ve done this before.

I found this quote in one of my writing/sketchbooks today. I thought it was apropos:

Todd Henry quote

 

 

What are you working on these days? Anything new and exciting?

 

02Sep/14

Five (Psychological) Reasons to Hire an Editor

redpen

 

Look at that red pen for a moment. Does the sight of it make you squirm? Are you having flashbacks to junior high, when a teacher handed you back the best paper you’d ever written with a hundred illegible scribbles all over it? Does the idea of red ink give you anxiety attacks?

Some writers see the word “editor” and freak out.

But if you are planning to make it as a writer, especially in the current publishing climate, I highly recommend hiring an editor. I’m not going to tell you all the great benefits of having your work edited. I’m sure you already know how typos and poor sentence structure can turn your 5-star plot into a 2-star dud on Amazon. I’m sure you understand that having someone else read your work can help you spot errors you couldn’t see, no matter how much you like correcting the grammar of others.

Today, I’m going to tell you why your writing will improve from hiring an editor before the editor ever touches your work.

 

Reason #1: It’s a Confidence Booster

self-confidence

I hired an editor in mid-June. I had been waffling about the idea for months. I knew what editor I wanted. I had been following her for some time on Google+ and knew that she worked on books similar to mine. She has a great reputation in the editing world. She’s the type of editor who sleeps next to the Chicago Manual of Style and geeks out about etymology. For many months, I knew that if I was going to hire an editor, she would be the one I wanted to work with.

For all those months I wished she was my editor, I never felt that I was good enough to be one of her clients.

One day, I saw a post by her that said she only had  two open slots left for all of 2014. This was back in June, when there was still half a year left to go. I knew I wanted to get my book finished by the end of the year. Suddenly, I had a choice to make. If I was going to have her as my editor, I needed to book one of those slots, and I had to do it fast.

When I contacted her, she seemed just as excited to work with me as I was to work with her. She had been following my progress, knew I was working on a non-fiction book, and said she looked forward to working with me. Well, then. That’s nice, isn’t it?

If you have an editor in mind to work with, don’t be shy about contacting them. They might be looking forward to working with you, too.

 

Reason #2: You Get a Built-In Deadline

I’ve been working on this book for 18 months. I have friends who expected a copy last summer, then at Christmas, then in the spring. But all you writers know what it’s like. I’ll write a book! Sure! Then you get sucked in to the black hole of YouTube, and you haven’t written a word for weeks.

catmarshy (1)

 

Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am. Well, good for you. I freely admit to needing some outside assistance.

Since my editor is booked through the end of this year and into the spring, I know my October 1 deadline is fixed. I know I don’t get to smudge this one. I know this is my one shot for this editor for this book. And you better believe I’ve spent every free moment working on my book since then. Well, beyond writing blog posts and dorking around on the internet for breaks, I’ve been working.

 

Reason #3: It’s Proof You’re a Real Writer

Up until now, you’ve told people, “I’m working on a book.” Neighbor kids think that’s the coolest thing ever (until you tell them what the book is about). Some of your friends might think it’s nice that you’re working on a book. But if you live in Southern California, like I do, and you tell people, “I’m a writer,” they say, “Oh, me too!” Everyone is a writer. It’s kind of nice, really. But at the same time, there’s this longing to be “a real writer.” Sure, I have some short stories published (doesn’t everyone?), but that’s as far as those conversations usually go.

But in this case, I have an editor for a specific project that I am completing in less than a month. And for some reason, I feel less defensive about trying to convince myself that I’m a writer now. Your threshhold for being a “real writer” might vary from mine, but being able to mention “my editor” in a conversation is just the kind of name-dropping I need to feel validated. Is that evil? Possibly.

 

Reason #4: You Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

willyWonka (1)

I’ve been writing as a serious hobby for over five years now. I’ve written four rough drafts of novels, three screenplays, hundreds of flash fiction pieces, and a dozen short stories. Some of them have been published. But I still feel weird when I talk to anyone who says, “I’m writing a book.” See #3. Sure you are. We all are.

By hiring an editor, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m saying, “Not only am I writing a book, but I’m finishing a book, paying someone to help me clean it up, and then publishing it.”

This is the furthest I’ve been on this journey so far. It’s a stretch. I was happy to just be writing a book for all those years before. Now, I want people to be reading the book. Hiring an editor is the next step on that journey.

 

Reason #5: You Have to Step Up Your Game

Before I even considered hiring an editor, I was halfway through the 4th draft of my book. It started as a mush of disconnected thoughts that became coherent over two complete rewrites. I knew this would be one of my final drafts when I came to it, and I’ve been working on it with a polished final draft in mind.

However, knowing the caliber of editor I’ve hired and the other clients she works with, I realized I needed to step it up. Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. This better be my best, right now. For me, that’s not a paralyzing feeling but an encouraging one. I know I can do better. I know that I was slacking a bit before I hired her. I also know what I’m doing now is the best I can do right now. And I’m excited to see how my editor will help my work become even better.

 

There you have it. Five reasons to hire an editor. I still have a month left to finish this book and get it to my editor, but my work and my confidence levels have already improved just from making the step to hire her.

If you’re nearing the point of needing an editor for your work, and you have someone in mind, I highly recommend you contact them to talk about how you can work together. And if you’re not quite there yet, I bet you will be if you keep working. Happy writing!

19Dec/12

Post-Operative Impressions

I could swear the last few weeks have been trying to break me. There has been a sudden downpour of conflict from all sides. In my real life, it’s painful and hard. In my writing life, I’m learning some excellent things about how to better develop a character (hint: make the sky fall down on them when they least expect it).

One of the less pleasant things I had to do was get oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth. The teeth in question had decided to make pain for me in my old age. I kid, I’m only in my thirties, but that seems to be old for these kinds of things. Recovery took me longer than I expected and it was a good 6 days later that I finally felt human again.

And somewhere in the middle of that recovery, I scribbled down the following lines, trying to grasp what I’d been through. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as my bizarre recollections make me laugh now. And no, I never did figure out who zipped my hoodie on me.

image by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Jascha400d

image by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Jascha400d

Post-Operative Impressions

I remember they took my glasses. Maybe that’s why I never got a good look at the doctor’s face. They took my glasses and tied down my hands.

I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, and wires, and tubes.

Now I’m in my hoodie, my jacket, my scarf. I notice a hot tear running down my cheek.

“Who put my clothes on?” I ask. He seems to think it a funny question but I don’t recall his answer.

There was a wheelchair I was expected to get into. I can see the blur of it, off to my right.

“I could hear them,” I say. “I could hear the beeping. I could hear them talking.” He tells me it must have been when I was waking up. It must have been.

My hoodie is zipped up. It’s not easy to zip. I was in a short-sleeve shirt. Who put it on me?

“Did you come get me?” I ask. He is amused that I don’t remember.

I remember there was a wheelchair I was expected to get out of. I remember the feel of it under my hands.

I can see my jacket and scarf in a pile across the room. My hoodie is still zipped snuggly on me where I lay on the couch.

“Who put my clothes on?” I ask. He says I was dressed when they brought me out.

I remember the wheelchair, but not the time I spent in it.

“I could hear them,” I say.

“You told me,” he says.

I was in a short-sleeve shirt. My hands were tied down. The doctor asked me a question. I slurred out half an answer and faded.

I am fully dressed now, my mouth full of gauze, missing my teeth

and my memories.

06Oct/12

Arizona Bay

I’ve been keeping up with the story writing so far this month. I took a break on Thursday, and only wrote a 55-word flash piece. You can see it on Austin Brigg’s site, along with a few others I’ve written.

I wrote four pieces yesterday to make up for my break on Thursday. I feel pretty ambivalent towards most of them, but following is the one that I still liked this morning. It’s from the Flash Fiction Project on Google+, and also partially inspired by a song by Tool called Aenima.

Arizona Bay

Looking out at the dark waves now, it’s hard to imagine how things used to be. Grandpa said this was desert, one of the hottest places on earth. That was before. There were a lot of things that were before. Grandpa shows me pictures sometimes, but they are hard to believe. I can’t make my brain believe in white clouds in a blue sky, or in a huge place they called the City of Angels. Grandpa was here when it happened though. He has the pictures. He tells the stories. It’s still exciting to him, in that terrible way that tragedies continue to be exciting. When he sees another old-timer, they always ask the same question.

“Where were you when it happened?”

Their eyes sparkle with the tears as they recount lives lost. They always talk about Disneyland. The Happiest Place on Earth, they say. I find it hard to believe, except that all the old-timers remember. They point out across the water and tell me about the ancient trees, and the big red bridge, and Hollywood. And their eyes glitter with the memories, like it was really something to behold. I stare out across the water and try to imagine it, but all I see is a lot of dirty water. I look at the sky and try to imagine it, but I see the same muddy air I’ve always seen. It’s the ashes, Grandpa says. They’re still there, up in the atmosphere. Everything was covered in ash, he says, even as far away as Europe and Australia. All the world was burning, he says.

But I don’t really believe him. How could the world burn when there’s so much water?

 

Thanks for reading!

19Sep/12

The Journey

Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize how much I’ve changed since I started this blog. I actually plan to come back and post here at least once or twice a week now and update my progress, so you get a better idea what I’m about. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a good step. Just for kicks, here’s a timeline of my writing journey thus far:

1. I thought I might like to be a writer. It had always sounded interesting, and I knew I enjoyed writing when I did it. But there was a lot of fear involved, mostly due to some bad experiences in the past.

2. I started telling a few people I wanted to be a writer. At the time, I was editing a church newsletter and I had also kept a blog for several years before, so it wasn’t much of a step (or, other people didn’t think so).

3. I started writing. Strangely enough, I was an award-winning screenwriter in college and had my poetry published in several anthologies. But it had been 10 years since I had put pen to paper to do any sort of creative writing. I started with a terrible novel during NaNoWriMo in 2009. I wrote the full 50,000 word novel that November. But then I stopped.

4. I joined Script Frenzy in April 2010. That’s about the time I started here. I was getting a little more serious about considering myself to be a writer, but not because I actually wrote much. When I did do one of the OLL contests, I felt like a superstar though, although I never let anyone read anything.

5. I started attending meetings of my local writer’s guild in September 2010. I wrote another 50,000 word novel in November that year. It was during one of the write-ins that I mentioned a book (Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) to my fellow writers and discovered they all had a copy hidden away. The rest is history.

6. I founded an Artist Way group in January 2011, and facilitated weekly meetings. At one point, there were 8 people attending. By the time the twelve week course was completed, there were 5 of us. We started as a ragtag group of broken people, and bloomed into a tribe of accepting and encouraging creatives. We still meet even though it’s been over a year since we finished the book.

7. One of the other members of the group was interested in screenwriting, and we committed to writing together. We brainstormed, researched, plotted, planned, and wrote feature-length scripts during the spring.

8. Thanks to the group and the writers guild, I was asked to give a screenwriting workshop in March 2011. It was a huge success, and people still talk to me about it sometimes.

9. Around April or May of 2011, I discovered flash fiction. I started hitting the point that I really wanted to improve my skills as a writer and storyteller, and I learned about five minute prompts. I started doing the prompts with my Artist Way group, and we would read them aloud to each other. This was incredibly frightening at first, and incredibly freeing after a while.

10. During the summer of 2011, I wrote a few 55-word pieces of flash and entered them in online contests. I tied for 3rd place and won $30 for one of them. That fall, I was asked to give a flash fiction workshop for the guild. It was frightening, but wonderful, and hearing everyone’s stories was a huge encouragement to me.

11. In August 2011, I wrote a real story. It was an idea I had been toying with for a while. I wrote it from start to finish in my notebook. I loved it so much, I let my Artist Way group read it. Then I let my husband read it. It was the first time I’d let him see my writing. He was impressed and hugely encouraging. I started pulling out that story whenever anyone expressed an interest in my writing.

12. In October 2011, I submitted that story, in proper manuscript format, to a call for submissions. This was a big step for me. The story was rejected, without so much as a comment, so I put it away for a while.

13. I wrote another story, and submitted it for a different contest. Again, rejection.

14. The new year came. WIP500 happened. The Writers Accountability group started on Google+. The commitment to write 500 words every day meant that all those stories and characters and ideas stuck in my brain started coming out.

15. In February, one of my Artist Way friends sent me a link to a story call and said my first story would work well for it. I was scared, but decided to submit. It was rejected, but with a personal note to send more stories.

16. I’ve since earned 8 rejections on that story, each one more positive than the last. I’m starting to understand that the rejections are not personal and are all about timing and theme and what fits with what.

17. Sometime during August of this year, I started feeling a strange angsty feeling about my writing that I hadn’t felt before. I want readers. I don’t want my work to be hidden anymore. I want to find the people who will enjoy my writing. It’s a strange feeling for me, considering I’ve hidden my creativity away for so long. This is when I realized I was growing up as a writer.

18. In the past seven days, I’ve submitted two new stories to calls. I now have a total of four stories floating around out there, waiting to find homes. This is work that I’m proud of, and want to share. This is work I will continue to shop out, even if it gets rejected again. This is work I may self-publish in the future. This is work that I send to my husband and my friends and my brother and proudly say, “Read my new story! What do you think?” and then change things that they find confusing. Because I don’t mind good criticism anymore.

It’s pretty great, actually. I’ve gone from wanting to write, to actually writing, to letting my creations out into the wild. I still need more courage to tackle the editing on the three novels I’ve written and the fourth one that I’m currently working on. I feel like my devotion to flash fiction and short stories is like a series of baby steps to longer fiction. And maybe, in another few years, I’ll be even further along than I am right now.

I mostly put this here to remind myself, but if you read all of this, thank you for being one of the friends who has encouraged me along the way. I hope to report good things to you all in the future! Who knows, maybe one of those stories will find a home soon.

02Jan/12

Winter Wrap Up and the WIP 500

The last year ended up being a very eventful one for me. There are two things I consider the best things I did: I started weekly date nights with my husband, and I facilitated an Artists Way group. One kept me closer to my family – we never scheduled over our date, and even if we just watched a movie, we had that time together. And the other provided me one of the best, most encouraging group of friends I’ve ever had.

Thanks to those two things, I am quite happy with how 2011 turned out. I even did a few truly terrifying things, like running Screenwriting and Flash Fiction workshops and playing the piano for people. Not only that, but I have been writing.

I have always enjoyed writing. It’s taken me a while to better understand it. I’ve always kept journals, scribbled out bad poems, written weird songs, and made up all sorts of nonsense about the characters that occupy my head. And in 2011, thanks to a challenge from a friend to write a screenplay in 30 days, I got back to writing every day. I wrote the screenplay. Then a novel. Then a few flash fiction stories. Then some regular short stories. And I started submitting my work. I let people read my stuff. And now I’m working on a novel that I am rather fond of.

Which leads me to the WIP500. I joined a group of writers from across the internets who are taking part in a challenge to write 500 words each and every day this year. My goal is to write every day, and to let the days average to 500 words (because some days of the week are far more difficult than others). Yesterday I wrote a short 144-word story. Today I will write more on my novel. I may not make it all 366 days, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in 2012.

Do you have creative goals for your year? I’d love to hear about them. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’ll be working on in 2012. 🙂