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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Embrace the Junk

So...do you have any idea where I'm going with this post? No, I'm not talking about the junk you find in your house (and yes, my house is full of junk). And I'm not talking about junk mail, either. I'm all about the writerly kind of junk. Ya know, the stuff that you painstakingly write each day. The stuff that seems to be brilliant prose as it flows from your fingertips, then shockingly turns to utter crap overnight. Sound familiar now?

What can you do about it? Is there any way to make that stuff come out right the first time?

The answer to that is a resounding no. Yeah, that's hard to hear. I know, it was hard for me. I was naive enough to think that if I took my time and carefully went over each chapter with a fine tooth comb before I sent it off to my CPs, then they would send it back with much love and accolades. Boy was I wrong!

It's taken me many, many months to figure this little bit of wisdom out for myself and I'm sure you've heard it, too. First drafts are going to suck. They are going to be crap. But they don't have to stay that way. That's what revisions are for. Now for me, I thought if I revised as I went, I could save myself a lot of time in the long run. (And I know a lot of you may be able to do that and that's great, but it has not worked for me.)

So what am I going to do now? I'm going to write straight through until this first draft is finished, and that means I have to embrace all of the junk that I will write. I'm finally at a point where I can accept that and not cringe, so my objective is to just get the story down and fix everything after the fact.

Because you can fix what's on paper, but you can't fix empty pages.

So what do you think? Embrace the crap and just get the first draft done? Or take it slow and steady, revising as you go? What works for you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Doubt Monster

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. The Doubt Monster (TDM). The evil creature that never completely goes away and loves to whisper all of your fears about your writing to you. I won't bore you with the things it usually tells me (cause I'm sure it has visited you before).

I was doing fine for a while. TDM seemed to have taken a leave of absence from my house. I was making progress with my neverending WIP. Then last week, it came back. Slimy little sucker showed up one night when I was happily typing away and stopped me cold in my tracks. And all of the old fears came flooding back.

It's not like I've had a really bad crit, either. My cp's are wonderful ladies and they always point out things that I could do differently or things that I need to work on, but I've never received one of those what were you thinking crits. But honestly, I keep expecting to get one every single time I post a new chapter for them to critique. Every time one of them posts their review of my work, my stomach does this sickening flip as I open it. Seriously. Then I let out a huge sigh of relief when I get to then end and find out that they don't think I should burn my ms.

So how do you fight TDM? How do you get past those thoughts that hold you back?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Do You Keep Your Muse Happy & More Sweet Contests

Wow, it seems like contests are all about these days! I have two more to share that are too cool for words! (Did you like how I used two, too and to in the same sentence?) Okay, first Beth Revis is having a wonderful giveaway to celebrate her MAJOR book deal! (Yes, she just sold her debut series, and it's YA sci/fi which is one of my very favorite genres in the whole world!) Anyway, she is giving away two prize packs: one for writers and one for readers. Let me tell you, I would be happy to have either one, but of course I'm chomping at the bit for the writer one:) The contest ends April 3, but I highly suggest you enter now. Cause if you wait and you're like me you just might forget and that would be awful! The second fantabulous contest is from Sara at The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler. She is giving away 12 prizes combined into five packages, so that means there will be five winners! Her contest ends March 22, so enter today!

Now for the post:) We all talk about her (or him if that's your thing). Ya know, the ever-elusive muse. The fickle creature that shows up on a whim and can make your writing session a dream of effortless creativity and singing prose or a tortuous event that makes you want to pull out your hair rather than try to squeeze out one more word. So what is the magic formula? How do you get her to sit by your side and whisper sweet nothings in your ear so you can happily type away? Well, if I knew the answer to that I would be writing 24/7.

I've been guilty of saying "I can't write today because I'm not inspired." Or "The muse isn't with me." Or my personal favorite "I don't know what to write cause I'm stuck." Any way you look at it, it all comes down to the fact that something is holding you back. I think that's why so many of us blame it on the muse. It's easier to blame something else other than put the responsibility on our own shoulders.

So really, what can you do about it? Well, some things that have worked for me are:

*Take a long walk

*Take a long, hot shower (that had my muse positively purring last night!)

*Feed her (mine loves chocolate and Dr Pepper, but you really need to pinpoint what yours is into)

*Read (A lot of bloggy friends suggested this one when was in my slump and it really works)

*Give yourself some time off (take a break for a few days because sometimes putting pressure on the muse is counterproductive)

*Remind yourself that the first draft WILL suck and you can and WILL fix things during revisions (this one is very hard for me to follow)

*Have a brainstorming session with someone you trust (crit partners, spouse, a friend or anyone who could help you with your writing)

So what have you done to keep your muse happy? Is there any one thing that works for you every time? And have you ever tried something that had the opposite effect and made your writing session seem like you were in hades?

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's Your Gripe?

I don't know what's going on, but it seems like any and every little thing is getting on my nerves lately. Stupid little things that usually don't faze me are really getting under my skin. I really need to open that Word document so I can FINALLY finish chapter 16 in my WIP, but I'm too aggravated right now. So to relieve the stress, I'm gonna list a few things that are driving me crazy. (Please feel free to click away now because this is gonna be a completely random and nit picky list).

1. Why won't my youngest go to sleep? I mean, I put her down over two hours ago and she keeps whining. I've checked in on her and she's dry, fed, etc, etc. (I think she likes torturing me). And on that note, why won't she sleep through the night? WHY?

2. Why can't my oldest two get along? Do they really have to fight every single day? Really?

3. Why can't the hubs put the toilet seat down? Would it kill him to do it just once?

4. Why does the house look like a tornado just blew through it? I spent over two hours picking it up yesterday after the birthday party. But you would never know if you went through there now.

5. Why does everyone in my family think I can drop what I'm doing to run errands for them or babysit? I'm not your personal assistant.

6. Why am I avoiding my chapter 16? It's almost finished. What's the big deal?

7. I saw Alice in Wonderland this weekend. Loved it. But why did the White Queen flutter her hands about? It looked ridiculous and I couldn't stop staring at her freaking hands in every scene she was in.

8. Why can't I decide which book to read next? I've narrowed it down to one of three books (all YA dystopian) but I can't pick one. And no, eenie-meenie-miney-moe has not worked:(

Okaaaaay, that's enough griping for now. Sorry for all that, but I do feel better now. So, do you have any gripes to share? Go ahead, let me hear what's bugging you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Agent Crushes and Some Wicked Awesome Contests

Yes folks, I've heard about some fantabulous contests! And these two are top-notch (I mean, I wouldn't be blogging about them if they weren't so awesome)! First up is the 500 followers contest being held by Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins at Shooting Stars. Talk about some sweet prizes: book giveaways, Enstrom's Toffee (sounds wonderful), and a 40 page partial submission PLUS a critique of those pages by literary agent extraordinaire Suzie Townsend of FinePrintLit. Next, Elana Johnson is having a contest in honor of reaching 700 followers (yep, you read that right - 700). Not that I'm surprised or anything cause Elana's blog ROCKS! She's giving away 7 books that are a must read. Both contests end Sunday, March 14. So...what are you waiting for? Sign up today (if you haven't already).

Okay, on to today's subject: agent crushes. Yeah, I know I'm nowhere near the querying stage yet, but I do take the time to read agent blogs and I even follow some of them on Twitter. If you have not done so yet, I highly recommend it. Not only do you gather a lot of great writing tips from those agents, you can sometimes get a feel of their overall personality. That is valuable in it's own right because, for me anyway, when I finally do start to look for an agent, I want to look for those who I feel like would be a good match for me. I want my future agent to be someone who is easy to talk to, maybe shares some common interests, and I want them to be honest.

Now I'm not trying to put the cart before the horse, but I have started writing down a list of agents who I plan to query one day. All of them have excellent credentials and a proven track record, but there's one who I really, really, really want to be my future agent. (No, I'm not going to say who this person is....I don't want to jinx myself.) Anyhoo, this person has a very helpful blog, is fun to follow on Twitter, and I just have an overall positive vibe about him/her. So am I setting myself up for disappointment? I have no idea. I just know that I have to get my butt in gear and finish my book and then edit it until it's the best I can make it. Then we'll see:)

Do you have any agent crushes? If you do, are you planning to query that person first or will you query some other agents first to see how things turn out?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who Believes In You?

Since I've started writing, I've gone through many ups and downs. Nothing can beat the incredible high of writing the "perfect" sentence/paragraph/chapter. You want to sing, dance, shout or do whatever it is that you do when you're happy. You know, the kind of things that usually embarrass anyone who's within ten feet of you . Then there's the flip side of the coin - the stark realization that everything you write is utter crap. You open your word document, expecting to look over the brilliant prose you created yesterday, and instead sit and stare in open-mouthed astonishment at the junk that has somehow appeared and you think WTF??!!!

This journey we call writing is like a huge roller coaster - you're up in the clouds one minute, down on the ground the next. It's enough to make your insides all tingly in anticipation of the good things you're going to write, then turned upside down and in knots when you come crashing down in a fit of the I-suck-and-I'm-never-gonna-write-anything-good-and-people-will-laugh-at-me-when-they-read-this. Makes you scream and hide, doesn't it?

So what do you do? Keep going? Quit?

NO! Don't quit! Don't even think about it! I don't know about you, but writing is my dream. It's what I have wanted to do since I was little. Sure, it seems like there's more days than not when I think my writing sucks to no end, but I am getting better. And you are, too. Whether you know it or not, each day that you write you learn something new. You learn from your mistakes, learn things that will make you a better writer.

And think of all the people who believe in you - your support system. Keep those people close to you because they are your cheerleaders, the ones who will support you when you're at your lowest. For me, that includes my husband (even though he doesn't "get" the whole writing thing, he understands this is what makes me happy), my girls (they always say things like "Mom, when you get published you can...."), and my bloggy friends. When I read your blogs or chat with some of you on Twitter, I really and truly feel like I'm part of the writing community. Thanks for making me feel so welcome and know that I really value all of you.

So, who is a part of your writing support system? Who do you lean on when you feel like your writing is "unreadable."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

Whew! It's been a long week, but I'm so happy that I can officially "plug" back in and visit blogs again. And to answer your question (if you're asking), yes I did reach my goal of 5000 new words. *cheers and thinks about doing a cartwheel but then remembers what happened the last time (and it wasn't pretty)*

Let me tell ya, I did go through a blog withdrawl of sorts on my first official "unplug" day. In fact, every time I tried to write I found myself getting online, so I gave up and cleaned the house. That's right, I spent my first day scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. But in my defense, there's something about a clean house that fuels creativity, right? Hey, that's what I told myself and it worked:) Then I spent way too much time on Twitter that night, so day one was an utter writing failure.

The next day was a little better. In between chasing the toddler and just flat out procrastinating, I did churn out a whopping 500 words. *hangs head in shame*

Friday was much better despite the fact that both of the older kiddos were sick. Even though all three kids were at home that day, the muse decided to pay me a visit and I cranked out about 1600 words. Yep, that was a personal best for one day of writing, and I didn't even do that in one sitting. Every chance I had a breather, I was at the computer tapping away. But like I said, the muse was a-singin' and I was a-listenin'. And when she visits, you DO NOT turn her away.

The weekend was basically shot. Between my niece's birthday party and cookout on Saturday and spending time with the family on Sunday, I produced very little. But Monday and Tuesday were very productive days, so I was able to meet the goal.

So what have I learned?

* I can function without blogging for a week.
* Twitter can suck a lot of your time, but I need some interaction with my writing peeps:)
* The more I attempt to write, the more I WANT to write.
* The more I attempt to write, the EASIER it gets.
* I'm a lot happier when I write.
* I still love my WIP. I've been in a writing slump for the past few months and I've had doubts about whether I should continue this project or start something new, but I'm going to finish it. I owe it to my characters to tell their story.

And that's it. I missed you A LOT, but unplugging is a good thing. I got way more accomplished than I have in the past two months combined, so I will do this again.

So what's been going on with you? What have I missed in the past week?