Monday, September 30, 2013

To Be or Not to Be...a Recluse

Whelp, new week, new post. I spent my weekend working on my super fun edit. I even worked on Saturday, people (gasp!). Or, should I say, person, since I only know of 1 confirmed reader of this enchanting blog. I find it hard to work all weekend, since the husband is deployed and it's just me and the kiddo (and my ginormo dog). She's in school from 7:30 a.m. until sports end at around 6, so I get hours to work every weekday and feel I should use Saturday for quality time (you know, creating toasty memories that will last a lifetime). I work every Sunday morning at Starbucks from about 8 to 12 and the kiddo comes with me and just does her homework. After that, she goes to model UN practice from 2 to 4, which gives me a little more time to write. So, that works out. This last Saturday, she had a school activity which meant a little under four hours of editing work for me at nearby bookstore. Friday was a banner editing day too, as I worked all day, then the kiddo went out to a movie with friends that evening, so I parked it at Panera and edited until she was finished.

This weekend should be productive too, as the kiddo's taking off to a weekend camp. I won't miss her quite as much if I dive headlong into work and stay busy until she gets back. The edit should be finished tomorrow (6 pages left; 354 pages and 104k words!), then a quick read through, and prep time for the dreaded synopsis and query letter (ugh)--at least those are already written; they just need polishing. I should be submitting to agents by the end of the week, which rocks. Crossing fingers that this truly will be the last time. After that, I'll go back to the novel in progress, which is hovering around 30k. It has an outline and most of the plot line figured out, so bonus. Not sure if I can finish it before NaNoWriMo starts, but I can try.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I need to get busy figuring out just what the hell I'm going to write about. I'm never at a loss for crazy ideas, but what could work for me in a month? I have a long range project I've been outlining and researching for over a year, but I don't think that's the best one to start. It will be a lot longer than 50k words. I think it's best to go with a fresh idea.

In other NaNoWriMo related news, I'm wondering if I should attend the 'pre-noveling adventure' this Sunday. Kiddo still won't be back, so I could go. I'll have to think on that. As a rule, I'm most comfortable writing from the comfort of my writer's cave (working hard on my status as recluse), but connecting with other writers on twitter has been cool. Imagine doing it in real life! The horror!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Little Better All the Time (It Can't Get Much Worse)...

This most recent edit has brought a few crucial things about my own writing into sharp focus for me. I thank my (former?) agent for this, who worked with me through three serious edits on another story. She pointed out that I have a nasty tendency to repeat things and overdo it on excess description. At first, I thought this was somewhat bogus, but then realized she was right on. I thought it was because this was an older story that I rewrote several years later, but now I'm editing a story I wrote more recently (last year) and I notice the same kinds of problems. I like words, I like description, and when I write, I often come up with three or four different ways to say the same thing, so it's hard to decide which one to keep in the story. Back when I used to hand write my stories, if I couldn't decide between two or three words, I included all of them and just separated them with a bold line. Apparently, I still do this without realizing it, only in a slightly different way. I've noticed that I craft two or three sentences in a paragraph or a page that express the same basic ideas. They're all awesome (if I do say so myself, haha), but repetitive. And I do it a lot. Perhaps there's a support group. Hello, my name is Tess, and I can't shut the hell up, even in writing. I need help...

Maybe I haven't fully expressed how out of hand this tendency has gotten. When I started editing the current novel, it was around 127k words and 415 double spaced pages. Way too long. I'm currently on page 256 and have cut 50 pages and 19 thousand words worth of repetitive crap and unnecessary description. And I'm not done yet. Like I said, I have a problem. But, isn't the first step admitting it? Now I just need to go through the other novels I have waiting for edits/reworking (see! I'm doing it again!). I'll go slowly, though. I wouldn't want to overload on too much excitement all at once...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Subject's the Thing

Things I like to write about (er, things about which I like to write):
  1. Vampires (the non-sparkly variety, mind you)- fell in love with these guys as a kid and stayed that way thanks to the Vampire Chronicles. I'm still trying to write an original vampire story. Might have one in the works. Time will tell.
  2. Magic in all its forms- this is pretty self-explanatory. I often find myself writing fantasy and magical realism.
  3. Mental illness- not sure why, but I love researching and writing about all the strange things that can go wrong in the human brain.
  4. Mythical creatures (from all cultures)- it's fun to research this too. If you can't tell, I love research. Once I start, it's hard to stop.
  5. Bad guys- only I like the challenge of trying to make them into characters you can feel sorry for, even though they're horrible people. This doesn't always work out.
  6. Wicked dreams that end up meaning something- these are just fun.
  7. Little guy vs. the Establishment- so many ways to do this and I've only picked one so far.
I find it very difficult to keep to one subject/genre. I prefer to dabble...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Month, One Novel

Well, I've decided: I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. Seems like a fun challenge, an exercise that will shake up the normal way I get stories written. Currently, I'm waist deep in a final edit on one story and have another project on the side that's hovering around 30,000 words. The edit should be completed before next week, and there's a slim chance I'll have the other story wrapped up before NaNoWriMo starts. Either way, I'm going to start a brand new story on 1st November. I have a few ideas percolating, so will start some note taking sooner rather than later...well, after the edit is finished. I want to start with a zero word count, despite the handful of stories I have idling on my hard drive (ranging from 500 to 7k words). Should be an interesting ride, considering I have a trip planned from the 4th to the 8th of November, as well as a visit to Florida the week of Thanksgiving. I don't usually work when family visits or when I take trips out of town (past note scribbling and messing around with new story ideas), so I'll have to make some adjustments...

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Shift from Hobby to Job

Once you're an adult, it's hard to justify spending a ton of time doing something that doesn't pay the bills, take care of your kid, or clean up your house. We all have to bring home a paycheck and kids never stop needing us (always wanting to eat and be driven to school, jeez!), so how do you find the time to write when you want to make the move from writing as a hobby to writing as a job? I've been writing seriously since middle school, but it's always come after what I deemed more important things (schoolwork, work in general, housework, things my daughter wants/needs/HASTOHAVE!). After college, I managed to write a novel every year, year and a half, mostly in my free time and *gasp* mostly sitting on the living room couch. Editing was a bitch with all the distractions of family and daily life. Even writing was hard, as I put everything else ahead of it (bringing home dollars, laundry, grocery shopping, watching TV, volunteering at my daughter's school, etc.).

Well, I finally gave myself an ultimatum: either I start treating writing like a job, or I give it up and agree to 9 to 5 it from here on out. This was the kick in the ass I needed. I began spending four to six hours writing at the library Monday through Friday. It opened at 9, so I could get housework and exercise done beforehand, and then leave straight from the library to pick up my daughter from school. This worked really well for several months. Then I landed my agent. To celebrate, I bought a nice new desk (on sale) and chair, and set up an office upstairs. Now that I was used to writing at least 4 hours a day, I figured I could trust myself to work at home. This was last September. Since then, barring holidays and times relatives are visiting, I work from about 7 in the morning until at least 3 in the afternoon, though now that my daughter is in high school, she's busy after class until 6 every day, which means I work until 5. Since beginning this more structured schedule, I've managed to finish a novel every three to four months, which is crazy fast considering it used to take well over a year. It helps to have the support of my awesome husband and my mastiff writing buddy (Zoey literally hangs out with me all day in the office). Now I just need some of my books on shelves available for purchase!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Promise, I'm Not a Creep...I'm Just a Writer

Spent the day out and about today (Greek Festival, lunch, kicking around downtown, then a stop by the grocery store--Saturday is the only day I don't write), and realized I have a strange habit: chronic eavesdropping. I'm always on the lookout for things that will work in stories, and writing realistic dialogue is essential. So, I often find myself listening in to random people's conversations just to hear how they interact with each other (I do love to play the omniscient narrator--uh, Freudian slip: I initially typed omnipotent), especially when I have specific characters that I want to flesh out. For example, I had a three year old minor character in one novel, but my daughter's 14 going on 35, so I can barely remember what she sounded like at exactly three and listening to other little kids helped immensely. I just like to listen to the way people speak to one another, but I realize this can seem creepy, especially in those dangling, awkward seconds before I notice I've been made...

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Face to Go with the Name

In case you were wondering, this is Zoey:

It's impossible to say no to this face...

My Status as 'Hoverer'

So, what's a hoverer? A hoverer is a person on the cusp. A person close, but no cigar. In a word: me. I thought I'd be published way before 30, but here I am 33 and still no creds. But, I think I'm closer than I've ever been. Here's why (yes! An excuse for a list!):
  1. I wrote a novel in college as part of my thesis, but wasn't especially happy with it, so I wrote another one and reached out to agents. No success there. Instead of sticking around to rework/edit that novel, I just went on to another project. When I finished, I reached out to agents again. Once more, no success. This process repeated itself two more times with two additional novels before my crazily supportive husband suggested a change.
  2. As I've stated, I am fantastically cheap, so my husband had to look up editing services, contact the editor (Lou Aronica from the Fiction Studio, who was great!), force me to talk to him, and then force me to spend the money to work with him. Prior to this, I'd just moved from project to project, as I figured agents weren't interested in the book I'd pitched, so I should start something new, which was great for sheer volume of material, but not so great when it came to moving forward with a single project. Working with Lou helped me in so many ways. I didn't end up selling the book he worked on with me (the 1st book in a projected 4 book series), but I used what I learned to go back and edit (more like rewrite) two of the remaining three books I'd written over the years. I then decided to type up a query letter for the 1st novel and shoot it out to agents.
  3. I got an agent! Success! Euphoria! This was the goal, right? I thought my days of writing query letters and buying agent guides were long over. I pictured a fabulous career in letters, my books on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, New York Times Bestsellers' List, etc. Well, it didn't work out like that. I worked with Jenn (won't give her last name for privacy's sake, not that I have any readers yet, ha!) for the year I was under contract, going through a serious edit/rewrite three times (third time WAS NOT a charm, though I do like the story better after all the fixes)(Funnily enough, the working title of the novel was 'Star-crossed'--I yucked it up after crawling out of my pit o' despair), only to end up with a finished project she didn't feel comfortable taking to publishers. Too dark. Story of my life! And while I was bummed, I also realized how much the process forced me to grow as an author. Not to mention, I finished two novels in between edits of the story I had going with Jenn. Two good novels, imho.
  4. So, yes, I broke down and bought a 2014 guide to literary agents and wrote another dreaded query letter and synopsis for one of the novels I wrote last year. Now I'm ready to submit to new agents. Again. Keeping fingers and toes crossed that it works out a little better this time. If not, I know the way back to the drawing board...

Hello There...

In this first post, I think it only proper to introduce myself. How, you might ask? By making a list, of course.

1. I love lists. So, if you hate them, perhaps this is not the ideal blog for you. I won't always write in list form, but the borderline OCD part of my head loves to see that kind of order. I have a list APP on my phone (well used) and a notebook in my purse to make additional lists (something could happen to my phone, after all).
2. I have an English Mastiff named Zoey. Weird, I know: an English dog with a French name, but there you go. She suffers from a strange form of body dysmorphia: while close to 150 pounds, she seems to believe she is a much smaller, much more helpless animal, perhaps around 10 pounds. This causes both hilarity and annoyance.
3. I've been writing since elementary school when I used to regularly annoy my parents with constant stories that were probably awful (none have survived, so I suppose that speaks to their horridness, but, really Mom, you didn't even save one?). This hobby took a turn for the serious when my 7th grade English teacher assigned the class a 'long' writing assignment: a story that had to be at least ten pages in length. While the other students cursed their rotten luck, I wrote an entire novel in pink and purple ink a la RL Stine, whom I adored at the time (I do still have this, though I will burn it the instant I sense death is near). The rest is history.
4. I love food. What more to say on this topic? If it's good, I want at least two.
5. I run...a lot. Started as a kid, continued in high school (the only sport I could do, to be honest), and still do it because it's cheaper than joining a gym.
6. I'm a world-class cheapskate. I coupon, surf the sale/clearance racks, lie in wait until the things I want drop in price by at least 50%. My husband has tempered this impulse a little, but not enough to override all the lessons I learned at my father's knee.
7. I studied philosophy in school, so excuse the occasional cogito ergo sum business.
8. I am both a military brat and a military spouse, so I've moved around a lot and am not quite finished. After about 2 years in one place, my feet get itchy and I'm ready for someplace new.

That seems good for now. Back to editing. Ho hum.