Writing–September Projects

Ivy

After the disaster that was August, I’m ready to switch gears and leave my disappointments in the dust, like I would totally do every day if I could afford the Chevelle on the car lot near my house.

Anyway.

My two main goals this month are to get back to revisions on the Ivy novella (and hopefully give the damn thing a name) and start writing the latest horror novella idea.

I feel like the month away from the Ivy novella has given me a nice respite and a new perspective on it. I think I have a better idea of what I need to do with it to get it the way I want it. I’m thinking that, if all goes well, I should still be able to get it up as an e-book before the end of the year, possibly before NaNo. However, I’m saying that tentatively. I saw what smugness did to me last month.

I think writing this new novella idea will be just the break I need from the trouble I’ve been having with the short stories. The idea has mellowed long enough that I think I’m ready to put it down on paper, so to speak, and I think the act of writing something new and something longer might help my creative issues when it comes to revising my short stories and getting them to work out the way I want them to.

I’m also back to kid-minding in the morning (and now the afternoon as well) a few days a week. I think my morning project will be this non-fiction thing that I’ve been scribbling about since January. I still don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ve filled a whole notebook about it. I’ve got a new notebook and I’m going to keep scribbling. Eventually, I’m going to get to the heart of this beast and know its name. Might as well do it in the mornings while I’m waiting for the kid to get ready for school during the moments I don’t have a kitten crawling up my leg.

I feel this will be sufficient to keep me busy without completely crushing my soul since none of it has to be finished before the end of the month.

Ego rebound month.

Writing–That Walk Away Point

Illustration from the Collier's magazine print...

It really doesn’t matter what kind of writing project it is -novel, novella, short story- it seems that at some point during the revision stage I have to walk away from it. Letting the story settle after a round of revisions, putting a little distance between myself and the words helps me see what needs to be done.

However, for some stories, the walk away isn’t just part of the revision process. It’s because I’ve grown to absolutely detest the story

I mentioned last week hitting that point with the Ivy novella. It’s not a unusual breaking point for me to get to when a project is being difficult.

There comes a point when I don’t want to look at the story anymore. I don’t want to read the words. I don’t want to try to make the story better. Just thinking about the story saps my will to live and makes me question my dedication to being a writer.

The only logical way to deal with this overwhelming feeling of disgust is to walk away. I put away the disagreeable project in question and I leave it alone until I’m done hating it. Sometimes that’s a couple of weeks. Sometimes that’s a couple of months. But the distance eases my hatred and makes my heart grow fonder for the piece.

Okay, not always. Sometimes the distance allows me to just hate the piece less while I gain the important objective view of the story so I can finally finish revising it and make it worth reading.

I don’t like hating any of my stories, but it happens. And I think it might be very easy for me to just abandon the stories I despise and move on to something I love. But, I don’t. I force myself to finish them to completion because just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t adore it. It’s not fair for me to give up on it just because I don’t like it. If I’ve gotten that far with it, then the story deserves to be told, whether it ever gets published or not.

And I also don’t hate stories for an eternity. Sometimes I hate them at the walk away point, but then rediscover my like/love for the story during our separation. Now, if I abandoned the story just because I didn’t like it when it was being its most difficult, that would be a total injustice.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little bit.

I usually feel guilty when I first walk away a story, but I know in the end it works out for the best.

We all need our space, you know.

Writing–August Projects

August

I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do this month. I know one thing one thing I’m NOT going to do. The Ivy novella is going to rest this month. I’ve hit that point in the revisions where I hate everything about it and everything it stands for. I need to forget about it for a month and let my disgust cool for a bit.

I think this month I’m going to be focused on finishing the short stories for the anthology I want to do. I should find out about the one that I submitted to the contest pretty soon so I can decide if it’ll make it in the anthology. Otherwise, I’m writing one right now that could take its place. The rest need the final edits/polishing. It’s entirely possible that I could have the whole thing put together and ready to publish by September.

I also think I’m going to make this the month of the short story. I’ve got a couple that I’ve written that could be edited/polished and put up here as freebies. And since the anthology will be wiping the slate clean so to speak (one of the reasons I’m feeling the urge to do it), I’ll need to build up the inventory again.

It’s going to be another low key month.

Writing–July Projects

Firework in San Jose

I don’t really have a lot going on this month, if I’m going to be honest.

I’ve finished cutting down and revising the Ivy novel into a novella. I did that at the end of last month after unexpectedly finishing everything I had planned over a week early. I needed to do something productive and that was it. I’m going to let it rest a couple of weeks and then go through another round of revisions on it.

Remember how I said the short story anthology I was working on was subject to change? Well, a change has come. I think one of the stories would work for a short story contest. All I’ve got to do is cut about thirty words from it to hit the word limit. So I’m going to do that. Meanwhile, I’m going to revise the new stories written for the anthology (again) and then start really looking at putting the thing together. I think I’ve got more holes in this plan than I initially thought, even before submitting one of the stories.

And…that’s it. All that’s left are little things, like doing a couple of essays I’ve got ideas for, but keep putting off doing and doing some organizing stuff.

Now watch. I think this month is light and I’ll end up racing to get it all done by the end of the month.

Writing–Rereading the Written

English: Page of a manuscript written by Penns...

I’ve got several manuscripts that I’ve written that have been hanging out, waiting for me to get back to them. Some of them are just first drafts; others have had one or two rounds of heavy-lifting revision done to them. All of them were put to the side so I could focus on something else.

Since I didn’t have much going this month, I decided to read them all to see what I had and get reacquainted with them.

It was interesting to see where I was as a writer a few years ago. I can pretty much tell what was going on in my life just by reading the manuscript. It’s fascinating. Nobody else would be able to pick anything up, but I guess because I wrote it and lived it, I know exactly where I was.

Looking at the pieces in a more professional, critical light, I’m happy to say that all of them are workable to an extent. I could make them all into something that you wouldn’t gouge your eyes out while reading. Which is reassuring in a sense. There will always be work waiting for me because I’ve got four manuscripts in various states just waiting to be finished.

And it won’t be a waste to work on them since there’s something worth working on there.

I admit to liking some more than others. Spirited in Spite and A Tale of Two Lady Killers have gone through a couple of heavy-lifting revisions and their stories are pretty good. Fun, quick little things that won’t require too much more lifting to finish.

The untitled Ivy novel should probably be revised down to a novella because I padded that thing pretty hard. The other POVs can go (though I might save Leo’s and rewrite it as a short story). Sticking to solely Ivy and shortening it up will do the story wonders. I might also end up changing the location. We’ll see.

American Vampires, I don’t care for. It’s only a first draft, a NaNoWriMo draft at that, so it needs A LOT of work. And I know what I was trying to do with the original attempt at a story, but I missed the mark. Of all the pieces, I like this one least and it will take the most work. Somehow, though, I think it might be worth the effort. Eventually. I’m in no rush to get back to it.

When I’m done with The World (Saving) Series, it looks like I’m all set for the next revision project. I’ve got plenty to choose from.

Writing–The Novel Experiment

"Writing", 22 November 2008

A few months ago (I think June, but I’m too lazy to go back and look for sure), I blogged about starting a new novel and writing it in a completely different way than I was used to. I was going to outline a few chapters, write those chapters, revise those chapters, and then move, sort of leapfrogging my way through the book.

I’ve admired the writes that can do that sort of thing. It looked like a much more efficient way to write a book. They don’t have to wait until their finished with the first draft to go back and fix glaring story problems or character issues. They revise as they go along to catch those things. Then when they do finish the first draft, they’ve got a whole lot less fixing to do. In other words, their first drafts put them a lot closer to a final draft.

That’s great for them. I still admire and envy them. But that’s not for me.

I used this technique with the Ivy novel (it still doesn’t have a title). While I did like not getting too far ahead in the outline so I could make adjustments and I liked the ability to go back and fix big story problems or combine chapters before I got too far ahead of myself, overall, I found the whole process rather tedious. By the time I started outlining the next few chapters I was relieved because I was sick of the chapters I’d been working on. That sickness has followed me all the way through the draft.

As of this post, I’ve still got two chapters to write and four chapters to revise (though, I don’t think I’ll be doing much of anything major to those chapters) and I’ll be done with the draft. Yes, I’ll be a lot closer to a final draft when I’m finished and that’s great, but I don’t think I want to write a novel this way again. At least not for a long time.

I do think I’ve picked up a couple of useful tricks from doing writing this way, though.

Not getting too far ahead in my outline is a great help. I think I need to start doing two outlines. The BIG outline of the general story arcs I want to tell. And the DETAIL outline of what goes in each chapter. The BIG outline will keep me from forgetting things. The DETAIL outline is what I need to stay on task (this is invaluable to me during NaNo when I must hit my word count for the day; I know exactly what I’m going to right about so I don’t have to waste time wondering). If I only outline a few chapters at a time, then I can make the adjustments I need to it without derailing the whole thing.

The second thing is that it’s okay to go back and change big, glaring story problems while writing the first draft. Okay, yes, this isn’t exactly time efficient during NaNo, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. And it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done just because I am writing a first draft and I prefer to write it all the way through without revising. Sometimes it’s a benefit to break that self-imposed rule. In the end, it helps me out more than it hurts me.

So, while I think I will always be one of those writers that has to get it all down on paper in one go, I do think this experience has made me a little smarter about how I can go about that more efficiently.

Stick with me, kids. I’m learning.

Writing–August Projects

Flower of Gazaia rigens

My focus in August is going to be finishing the revisions/rewrites on The World (Saving) Series. I’ve got less than ten chapters to go and while the rewriting is going to be heavy, it shouldn’t take me the whole month to finish.

I started two short stories at the end of last month, “Just Visiting” and “Lady on the Stairs” which I’ll be finishing as well.

And then…?

I need to get back to working on the Ivy novel. Things got derailed when I did my writing protest for a week last month. I’m not sure how much I like the outline/write/revise method. I think that’s where part of my writing frustration came from. I may just finish the outline and then write the rest of the novel so I can call it done. As it stands, I’ve written/revised over half of it so I wouldn’t be in horrible shape if I did it that way.

I’ve got half a mind to start outlining another big project. It’d be a freebie for the blog. However, I make no guarantees that anything will ever come of it. It’s just something I’m thinking of doing.

And of course, I continue on with the 50 Rejections saga. It’s been rather disappointing lately. I don’t want to talk about it now.

I’ll wait until I can go on and on at length in a post of its own.

Writing–Writing Retreat Results

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, near Ch...

The week in solitude with only two dogs and three cats to demand my attention and limited Internet access did me some good. Not only did I get several chapters of the Ivy novel written and revised, but I also found a new creative spark for revisions on The World (Saving) Series.

The first two days there I admit that I kept the same slow, slightly distracted pace. But by Saturday night I realized that I was getting bored and needed to do more work to better fill up my time. That was good enough to light the fire under my butt.  I found myself doing twice as much work as I usually did when I was home.

The exceptions were Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday I had a job interview and was gone a good chunk of the day, so I only did some outlining. Thursday I got a chapter written and one revised, but didn’t have the attention span to push it past that. I was looking forward to my aunt coming back that night so I could go home. It was nice to get away, but I was ready to get back to my bed and my fridge and my animals.

I’m pleased with the productivity I had that week and I hope at least a little of it carries over back at home. The Ivy novel is going to continue to take its dear sweet time and I’m going to get frustrated with my lack of progress on it and I’m going to deal with my bad habit of procrastinating, but I think this burst of productivity will help propel me through the hard parts. And I’m really glad that I had a chance to tinker with The World (Saving) Series again. It’s gotten me excited to get back to the project and I think I can hammer out the revisions on the first third of the novel before the month ends.

In the end, it’s all about discipline and focus. I need to carry the writer’s retreat mindset of getting my work done in my mind all the time.

A saying has floated on my Twitter timeline repeatedly and it’s so very true:

Writing is 90% not getting distracted by the Internet.

Writing–Writing Retreat

Arkansas River Valley

Starting Saturday, I’ll be house sitting for my great-aunt and cousins while they go to Arkansas on vacation. Their house is only about 20 minutes away from mine, but I’ll be staying there all week to take care of the animals (and a garden, which I hope I don’t kill).

So, in a way, I’ll be getting a vacation, too.

For a week I’ll be on my own (if you don’t count the two dogs and three cats). My distractions and disruptions will be reduced by two people (sorry, Dad and Carrie). I’m pretty sure my aunt doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so my Internet access will be limited. In conclusion, it will be a prefect time for me to get some serious writing work done.

The plan is to continue working on the unnamed Ivy novel as well start the new revisions on The World (Saving) Series. I’m afraid I might get frustrated working on just the Ivy project full-time, particularly with the slow way I’m doing it, so the revisions are an easy way to keep mentally happy and from getting discouraged.

I’m calling this a my writing retreat. I’ve never been on one before and I know from what I’ve read there are usually other people involved, critiquing everything everyone’s written for the day after the sun sets, but I don’t really need that last bit. I just need the time away, the time to focus.

You see, I’ve often told myself that without the distractions of my daily life, I’d be more productive. I could write more if only people would leave me alone or if I didn’t have to make dinner or if I didn’t have to do this, that, or the other. Well, now I’ve got the opportunity to put that hypothesis to the test. Will I be more productive away from it all? Or will I find new distractions and not be any more (or worse, less) productive.

There’s only one way to find out, I suppose. And to be fair, I’m looking forward to both the change of pace and change of scenery. And the challenge.

I just hope I live up to it.

 

It should also be noted that since I am doing this writer’s retreat, expect no blog posts from me next week.

Writing–Breaking in a New Novel Method

Red High Heel Pumps

I’ve spent the past couple of days breaking in a new pair of heels. I haven’t worn heels for quite a while. I’ve gained some weight and messed up my left knee since the last time I did. It’s taking some work to get used to them. If I’m going to be standing in them for several hours, comfort is important.

The same thing could be said for this new novel I’m writing. I’m taking this new approach of outlining a few chapters, writing them, then revising them. After doing it for several weeks (I started back in April), I can definitely say it’s taking some getting used to.

On the plus side, I’m able to go back and fix major story problems immediately. I don’t have to wait until I’m finished with the first draft and into revisions to fix something that’s nagging at me. For example, the first three chapters of this draft were terrible. They were a downright boring info dump. So before I went on, I had the opportunity to fix that and better mete out the information while keeping it all interesting. I don’t have that specter hanging over my head as I move on.

On the other hand, it’s definitely slow progress. If I were doing this in typical NaNoWriMo style, I’d either be done or at the very least, close to done by now. I’d have a shitty first draft as usual, but I would be done. And that shitty first draft would probably need a lot of work. As of right now, I haven’t gotten past the initial first story-fixing revision on any of my novel manuscripts.

So with this new approach, what I can guarantee that the draft I’m left with when I write the last sentence should be in better shape than a draft written the NaNo way. That’s the theory, anyway. It will still need revisions because what I write will always need revisions. But it shouldn’t need as much in the way of revisions. At the very least the story should be solid.

It’s too soon to tell if this will become my main way of writing novels. I doubt it. After all, I don’t plan on wearing my heels every day. But this will be a nice method to pull out in between NaNoWriMos when I’m feeling restless and tired of working on short stories and sick of working on novel revisions and I need to create something original or when I have an idea I just can’t shake.

For the those times when I need something a little different, I think this will work just fine.