I’m blogging on Southern Magic’s Romance Magicians’ blog. Come visit me and tell me what you think writing a book is like…
Today I went shopping with my darling daughter, her two friends and a mom friend. Now this isn’t about writing. It’s about girls and women becoming and being and seeing themselves reflected.
REFLECTED. In mirrors, in their own minds, against societal standards, against their own standards.
We all bring different tableaus to the mirrors we perceive. Teen girls? One says she is too short, too thin, too tall, too heavy, too whatever. The clothes don’t fit. They aren’t perfect. They criticize themselves. These beautiful, young women see the mirrors in their dressing rooms, the too long too small too tight too short too iffy clothes and evaluate their bodies against themselves, each other, the media pictures.
Fast forward 30 years. Moms. Talking. We bring to the table our wrinkles. Not just facial. Nope. We bring our life wrinkles, too. Are we too old to start again? Are we late? Are we on the right track? What kind of moms are we? Have we set the right? Wrong? Examples?
Me. A mom. Knowing my daughter is beautiful, flawed, not a Miss America contestant, but smart and funny and motivated. Me. A mom. Forcing her daughter to view the mirror. Tears. Oh the body isn’t Miss America. But oh, me knowing she is smart, witty, motivated and strong. Me. A mom. Sad. Proud. INCREDIBLY BLESSED.
Later, me and a mom talking about our doubts, our fears, our futures, our daughters.
Life. This is Life. Writing is just an offshoot of this life.
My Writing Quilting Bee January 30, 2010
I am slogging away at my revision three chapters at a time per my CP in VA’s suggestion. Poof. Hard work. And I’m not hitting a timer or listening for the sand to drop through the hourglass as I work. Nope. Instead, I’ve found the revision is working out much like one might put together a quilt (my apologies to real quilters as all I know about quilting is the fabrics and what I read about them).
Go Vols! Orange You a Volunteer? January 28, 2010
When I lived in Knoxville, TN, the college football team, Tennessee Volunteers for UT, ruled during football season. The locals had sayings like “Orange You a Volunteer?” and Rocky Top Tennessee was a song they sang with gusto and pride.
Tennessee Vols came by their name honestly: history shows them helping out at the Alamo. And future generations have always stepped up to the plate to give aid and assistance in various capacities.
Actually, I find the USA itself to be a country filled with the volunteer spirit. Our rescue teams were the first to show up in Greece, Turkey and now Haiti. Individually, we are a nation of spirited “givers” in churches, schools and organizations. Even our beloved writing organization, the RWA and its sister chapters can’t run without its volunteers.
I know. I’m one of them. But not in a big way. How I help is small compared to the help so many others give and to the time others give to RWA and my local chapters, Southern Magic and Heart of Dixie.
So before I go on, let me say THANK YOU. You all rock.
That being said, I want to say, before one volunteers to do a task, know how much time it will take and how it will interfere with your goals; especially your WRITING goals. I evaluate every volunteer duty I agree to do, within the RWA and in my community, in terms of the impact it will have on these things:
1) My family
2) My health
3) My writing time
I also evaluate anything I am asked to do in terms of how they fit into my TOP FIVE PRIORITIES. They are:
1) Family’s emotional and physical health, including my own.
2) Pursuit of a professional writing career
3) Household maintenance-clean, shop, run child here and there
4) Preparing my DD for college; traveling to visit colleges
5) Positive social interactions
If the volunteer activity doesn’t enhance or fit into my top five priorities and/or the volunteer activity INTERFERES with these priorities, I say no. No explanations necessary. Period.
Why? Has anyone met that volunteer who says YES to everything any one asks of her/him who then drops the ball because they are TOO BUSY and they use work, life etc as the excuse? I know people like that. I’ve also made that mistake. I thought I’d stopped making the mistake, but I did say yes to a few things last year that interfered with my writing and my enjoyment of my family because I was so caught up in the moment. I fulfilled my obligations in one instance. In another, I quit citing family reasons. And the next time someone asked me if I would do something, I asked “what is entailed?” And I asked “if life hijacks me, are you okay with me quitting?” After I received my answers, I said yes to both requests.
Face it. One feels a bit “important” and “special” when one is asked to help. One wants to “belong” and volunteering is a way of making friends and becoming part of a group. People are vulnerable to this compulsion. I was. Especially after a move where I had to make new friends and wanted to fit in.
Lesson learned. I had forgotten my priorities. And before I started this new year, I made sure I had them listed and TAPED to the the cabinet door next to the fridge and my calendar, also next to my writing area, and IN MY PURSE.
I’m not saying don’t volunteer, I’m saying volunteer wisely. This is super important for writers, published and unpublished, to remember before they say yes. Many of us have jobs and families taking time away from our writing. If we say yes to everything, when do we write?
Ultimately, if something is going to happen, more than one person should run the show. Many hands make light work. If there aren’t enough people saying “yes” then we need to stop and evaluate the production of the show.
So volunteer. Be part of the team. But remember your top priorities and understand how saying yes will impact them. Ask a lot of questions. Evaluate your time commitments first. Say you’ll get back to them after you check your calendar. And remember this too, it’s okay to say no without explanation.
Tea Anyone? A Maass Illumination January 27, 2010
I’m currently in revision hell and whenever I come up for air, I try to read a chapter in my WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL book, by DONALD MAASS. Yesterday I plowed through his chapter about plotting the contemporary novel. I’m guilty of committing a lot of the mistakes he writes about: car drives, eating in restaurants, introspection, the too long sequel to the scene. I usually weed out the worst of my writing offenses with each pass through of my WIPS and this current POS is undergoing a similar surgery. But oh man, is it tough!!
*confession: I wrote in the last pages of my GH entry where I knew no one would read the words the following nonsense:
And then they went for a really long car drive to go and eat at a restaurant because my characters get hungry and do things like eating, driving and taking breaks from the action.
*confession: I needed to reach my word count and I knew I’d cut this almost immediately after I sent of the drek… and it is drek… no doubt about it.
Maass gives a lot of wonderful insight into the writing industry and about how writers need to elevate their writing to the next level. Obviously, if the scene is only a “driving” scene to get the character to and from work, then by all means slash it out. If it’s integral to a chase scene and the car careens over a cliff, keep it. The action is great.
Apparently eating isn’t all that well received either. Nor is drinking tea… another Maass Illumination:
Certain types of scenes are so reliably low in tension that when reading a manuscript, I count them in my notes with hatch marks … mulling things over while driving from one place to another, relaxing in the shower, fixing a cup of tea or coffee. Category Romance writers are especially prone to these time wasters. When they complain to me … that they cannot seem to break “out of category,” it is a pretty good bet that their heroines are tea addicts.”
My friend, Ellen, in Ireland who keeps a nice blog about writing might laugh at the tea addiction comment. I did. But I also paused because my heroines don’t really guzzle a lot of tea. They enjoy the following: chardonnay, cabernet, champagne along with a nice helping of Brie cheese, gourmet crackers and fruit.
Dear Lord! My heroines are lushes! They don’t go to restaurants. Mine are hanging out in bars, swank gourmet bistros and at wineries. Oh dear. Now they don’t get drunk (tipsy for humorous moments), but they do prefer wine over tea.
Confession: I enjoy drinking the aforementioned alcoholic beverages and have been known to tipple back a martini or two as well.
To combat my heroines’ affection for wine and champagne, I often make them very health conscious in other ways. They go to the gym, they jog and they eat very healthy food. My girls do not eat deep fried food unless forced to and they drink the requisite 8 bottles of water per day.
So basically, my heroines are healthy lushes.
Confession: I enjoy hitting the gym, working out with weights, power walking and Wii Sports EA. And I drink at least 8, 8oz glasses of water per day.
My revision work today consisted of doing the following:
*cutting out driving to and from work (aack)
*eliminating my hero’s breakfast gourmet java
*no jog for my heroine today
*mulling over things that happened
I did not cut out the scene where my heroine and her BF snuck out to the radio station’s engineering room with leftover Rose wine, brie cheese and leftover Valentine’s chocolates for their secret meeting.
After all, a girl’s got to have her vices.
The Write Stuff: Process and Perseverance January 24, 2010
As I’ve had to revise my goals for the year to reflect the new direction of my WIP–transforming a category length romance into a single title length romance with suspense elements–I’ve battled back a lot of doubt in order to focus on fixing the story. Again.
To Write Well is to Revise a Lot! January 21, 2010
Writing is not easy. It is not for sissies. It is not for the weak of heart. A lot of would-be writers never finish their first drafts. They start many novels, but get mired in the middle never to escape the bog of doubt and fear that they’ve lost sight of their vision. A few struggle past and pull themselves out of the soul sucking middle ground and race happily to THE END.
Yay! First draft! The writer is officially DONE.
But not so. No. Unfortunately, after a breath of air and a break from reaching the story’s resolution. One learns if one is a writer with the guts to go the distance again. Not just once. Not just twice. But often times three, four, five and six times. Maybe more. Each time issues with the story, the characters and the plot are ironed.
Someone once asked, when is it finished? I say not until it’s sitting on a shelf in a bookstore or on-line with an e-publisher ready for someone to buy, read and yearn for more of the author’s writing.
However, as a writer, I must say that for me the end comes when I’ve polished it to the point where the only way I’d rip into a plot again is if an editor and/or agent said, “Love your voice, but we want you to do X to make it better.” In other words, I want to be under contract before I revisit the book for a billionth time.
And at a certain point, it’s time for me, the writer, to take what I’ve learned and move onto the next project. Hopefully, all will happen faster. There will be less revisions to the overall plot and characters as I grow as a writer honing her craft.
For now I slog on. I have beaten back this story a lot. I’ve rescued my characters three times. I’ve reinvented the plot three times. I’m back in for more work. Deep work. Hard work. Unrewarding work (no pay here). One pat on the back I will receive will come from other writers who know all to well the pain of revising (cutting our beautiful words, letting go of the original ideas and moving on–HARD).
The other pat will come from me. To myself for having endured again. And for trying.
That’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.
How do we do this?
At times, for me, it’s the mere fact that I refuse to give up on my characters. This is their story. Other times, I refuse to give up on myself. I started this journey. I want to finish it.
And you know what? The craziest part about being an unpublished writer wrestling with words is the greatest reward after multiple revisions is that I get to start a brand new book.
I get to do it all over again.