As one ages, one starts to worry about one’s mental faculties (and one starts to refer to oneself in the third person). To that end, I’ve taken to doing a daily crossword puzzle on my iPad. They might be New York Times puzzles, but if they are, it’s sure not the Sunday puzzle – I can usually do one in about 30 minutes.
I figure it’s a good investment of time and interestingly, I’m also finding that the exercise is trickling over to my writing. A crossword puzzle is an excellent way to think about different words meaning the same thing (what’s the word for that?) or, on the flip side, the many different meanings a word can have. That’s got to help a writer, right?
One of the exercises I did in an on-line editing workshop involved writing a poem and then re-writing it using different words. Suddenly, a thesaurus is a beautiful thing. Mental exercises like that will help my writing now and help my mental acuity well into my, well, gee, 80s?
So, I’m on Twitter now. And I have 28 followers! Yeah, I don’t get too excited about that either. They’re mostly local businesses, politicians, and writers or musicians trying to sell me something.
I follow local news and weather, as well as local and not so local authors, editors, actors, and musicians I like, writing-related feeds, the Royals, and the Ducks. Then there are the guys who just post funny stuff. I wish I could find more of them because the news can be overwhelmingly depressing.
The immediacy of Twitter is what fascinates me. I hear about stuff very quickly. And a little exclusively, which I like. My own personal news feed, it’s becoming my main source for news. Or at least a jumping off point for follow up. If something shows up in my feed, then I move on to a bigger news site.
When there was the wildfire threatening my boss’s neighborhood, the fire department was tweeting updates, which I then texted to the boss because his information was out of date.
And if I don’t like someone’s info, I can just quit following them. For instance, I don’t follow CNN, but I do follow people who comment on the news of the day. So they’re like my news filters. For instance, two people tweeted about the shootings in Dallas, not specifically mentioning it, but referencing it, so I was curious and looked into it. I didn’t start my day with death and destruction. I started my day with Prince George sitting in a vintage airplane and Prince Charles sitting on a vintage motorcycle.
And sometimes, a little nugget lands that turns into a whole big-ass event for me, as evidenced by the fact that I got to see Stephen King, in person! More on that later.
Follow me @NevadaNerd. Or not.
Finally, after over six months, the rejection arrived. Because it took so long, and the reading period ended months ago, I wasn’t surprised. But it still hurts. I thought the piece was a perfect fit. I thought I had a bit of an “in” with the editor. I thought my story was brilliant.
I’ll be researching new markets and re-submitting in a few weeks.
Such is the life of a writer. And this was only flash fiction. Imagine a novel. I’m still trying to imagine COMPLETING a novel.
#amwriting #amediting #amrejected
This is my motto. It’s a core philosophy adopted in college some 30-odd years ago, and still declared on my Road ID.
I’ve always interpreted the phrase to mean “Keep things clear,” and it’s been a part of my life for so long, I take that meaning in every aspect of my life, from writing, to work, to relationships.
To me it means I should be clear in my goals, clear in my wants and desires, and don’t depend on someone else’s interpretation of my meaning.
It’s a useful tool in storytelling, when one is outlining and sketching out the bare bones of a story. I have come to learn, however, that a lot of depth and color of setting and character is lost with that classic “Just the facts, ma’am” mindset. So eschew, but don’t eschew too much.
In my personal life, being clear has meant the difference between an evening at a loud bar in uncomfortable shoes and bra, and cozied up with a good book on the couch in fuzzy pants. “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.”
And just to be clear (see what I did there?), this is what MS Word’s thesaurus says about these two simple words that have been governing my life for so long:
Clear as mud, no?
Avoid complication, shun confusion, and steer clear of smokescreens. All good mottos for life.
Gawd, I was BRILLIANT when I was 18…
Actually, that’s not really true. Yes, I have a lot of projects piled up around here. But when I’m working on a particular project, I’m very focused and it consumes me.
My problem isn’t lack of ideas. My problem is carrying those ideas through creation, editing, and finally, completion.
Some people would say that I should focus on just one project and get the darn thing done. In a perfect world, I would do that. But I quite obviously don’t work in a perfect world. I’m currently bogged down in the minutiae of the middle grade project, and it gives me a break from frustration to work on one of these romances. I’m taking some of the solutions to problems I’m having with Project A and using them in Projects B and C. Project D is in an extremely rough phase and I plan to use lessons learned in the other projects to avoid those same problems completely in Project D.
I’ve lived with these projects for many years and know I’ll eventually get back to all of them. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the process. While a nice big contract is an admirable goal, it’s the journey that’s half the fun, right? RIGHT?!?
If you’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing (and if you haven’t, why not?), you’ll know that he talks about a writer needing tools in her toolbox. I’ve always loved this image. My particular toolbox is one of those clanky, metal ones that can be lugged from place to place, not the one like my father owns that sits on the floor in the workshop. I can take mine with me, open it up, and pull out tools as I need them. Some of them are a little rusty – my grammar and comma usage, in particular, really need some buffing. But I’m working on that – a grammar blog (http://www.dailygrammar.com/) drops a lesson into my e-mail every day.
My newest tool is shiny and unused, given to me by Joan Dempsey. I recently participated in one of her editing workshops. Ms. Dempsey puts a lot of information out there and getting the most from it involved a fair amount of sitting and thinking about my process. It was enlightening. And let me tell you, my process is pretty scattershot. I’m of the NANO School of Writing – throw that shitty first draft down as quickly as possible and then go back and edit and edit and edit. And edit. Then edit some more.
But after going through the workshop process and analyzing my way of working, I have a shiny new tool — a checklist specific to my needs and way of working. I KNOW! What a concept!
I can’t wait to break it out.
I’m a reader. A voracious reader. I’ve been tracking my reading for over 15 years and on average, I read 53 books a year. One a week. This is why That Man calls me “Reado the Reado Wife.”
Now, that includes everything — books I re-read, Kindle editions, and Middle Grade and YA (research, don’t you know).
I read to be entertained and educated. But interestingly enough, I don’t read like a writer. At a recent book club meeting, another member, also a writer, mentioned how he had a terrible time enjoying the book because the author head-hopped and as a writer, it drove him crazy.
I didn’t even notice.
I was swept along in the story, the characters, and the intrigue and didn’t even notice the nuts and bolts of writing. Things I work hard on at my desk, I completely missed on the couch.
And this may be why my writing falls short so often. As a reader, I’m easily swept away into the story. As a writer, I’m easily dazzled by my own perceived brilliance. As I read my own work, the world of my own creation comes alive with just a key stroke and my imagination runs amok in a world where the details aren’t quite there, yet. Since it’s my world, I see it, though my reader may not.
The power of suggestion is strong in this one.
I have been informed, multiple times, that my use of the comma can be quite horrifying. I readily admit that my grammar education is sadly lacking and I’m not sure how to go about fixing that. I never diagrammed sentences. I never learned an adjective prepositional phrase from a subordinate conjunction. And yet I have an English degree and my Super Secret Day Job involves copious amounts of wordsmithing. My use of the comma tends to be a by-the-seat-of-my-pants thing, with commas thrown in to slow my headlong progress.
In an effort to fix this lack in my education, I’ve been slogging through the following:
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
- Woe is I by Patricia O’Connor
And slog really is the word for it. Is there anything more boring in the world than a discussion of punctuation and grammar? Okay, statistics. And watching grass grow.
But I press on. I’m hoping to find an on-line course with music, juggling, and rhymes to help me remember the rules.
Still trying to get the creative motor revved up. Still failing. My new plan is to re-read inspirational writing books. Not “inspirational” as in faith-based, because that’s not how I roll in this shire, but “inspirational” as in “yes, THAT’s what I’m talking about! I must get back to work and write like THIS!”
Below are a couple of books that I find help me to no end. Keep in mind that these are just my preferences. If others work for you, let me know
- How I Write – Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof
Evanovich is one of my favorite authors. She’s fun to read and it’s interesting to get inside her writing process. I’ve got a lot of flags in this book and I would be a happy girl indeed if I had even a smidgen of her success. It also doesn’t hurt that Stephanie Plum is quoted with great frequency.
- No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
Ah, Chris Baty. One of the brains behind National Novel Writing Month. This book was written with that crazy endeavor in mind and I still read it on an annual basis, just to be reminded about how fun writing SHOULD be. Another heavily flagged book.
- On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Master of all that he surveys, Stephen King not only writes great books, he’s written a great book about writing. This is also a great memoir, without all the writing stuff. But it’s the writing stuff I want.
- Anything by Mary Stewart
Because, well, her books have it all – Characterization, plot, description, suspense. I keep re-reading, hoping something will rub off in my writing.
Okay, I’ve had my time off. And it was GOOD. But now I need to get back to work. And as I review my projects, I can’t decide what to work on. So many projects, so little progress/positive feedback/energy.
In a perfect world, I would have just sent my perfect manuscript off to my perfect agent/editor. You know, the one who gave me a January 31st deadline, which I’ve beaten by a month. My agent/editor has a publisher lined up and my book will be out by the end of year. After a week off, preferably on a warm beach, I’d get back to work, starting the next book in the series with the knowledge that the publisher and the public would welcome it with open arms.
Alas, it’s just not so. My story is half done and there are issues with plot and character. Editing has bogged down in minutiae, and feedback is brutally harsh.
So, do I continue to whip this horse, trying to get it to the finish line, or do I switch horses in the middle of the stream?
I’m sorely tempted to start researching ANOTHER book. Yeah, THAT’s what I need – another unfinished book in a box.
Or I could work on the next most completed book, something with real horses to whip.
Then there’s the story with huge gaps to fill. Yes, there’s a lot of EDITING to be done, but there’s a lot of WRITING to be done, first.
Then there’s that NANO project that I stuck in a drawer at the end of the month, and NEVER LOOKED AT AGAIN. I’m sure it’s brilliant, in places. But also know that the ending collapsed.
And then there’s the novel started and not yet finished which might make a better novella or even a short story.
Which brings me to the idea of writing a short story right now. Quick turnaround, satisfying result, and an all-around ego boost.
I may not know what to do, yet, but I know my options. And at least I don’t seem to have a problem with writer’s block.