NaNoWriMo!

OMGWHATHAVEIDONE! Okay, I really do have some trepidation, mostly because I really don’t have an idea for the next novel, but idea or no, I begin tomorrow! Eeek! I figured it was a good way to start and to ratchet up the commitment, I’m raising money besides! (Note: my mentor,  Rob Roberge, would never support the number of exclamation points included in this post…!) Anyway, to donate, please go here: http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=218079 It all goes to The Office of Letters and Light. From their website:

The Office of Letters and Light organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.

If you want to donate to me personally to support this blog or my writing time, go to the Donate button at the Feed The Author notice on the right side —-> It is greatly appreciated!

Portrait of a Bookstore

One of my favorite places – and most meaningful – is closing. Portrait of a Bookstore is the first place I gave a reading for my first novel, DEAD WEIGHT. They said at the time that it was one of their most successful events 😉

I love Portrait of a Bookstore – loved it before I ever thought it possible to read there – and Imagewill miss it. Our community will miss it. I am so incredibly grateful to Lucia Silva who gave me that opportunity to “go public.” The staff is the best. And so goodbye to another independent bookstore…

From their blog:

After 26 glorious years, 14 of them spent happily inside Aroma Café, Portrait of a Bookstore is gracefully retiring. How could we say goodbye after 26 years of such success? In the words of Orson Welles, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” This is our happy ending. Our official closing date is May 17, 2012.

On May 17, 1986, Julie and Frank von Zerneck, along with their children Danielle and Frank, Jr.,  gave birth to this bookstore, which grew to be a haven, a home-away-from-home, for so many members of this community. One of the smallest bookstores in the world, “small but mighty,” as we’ve always been called, our selection of books was impeccably curated, worthy of the praise of any astute bibliophile.

Their last day is May 17, 2012 and everything in the store is 50% off.

Pinterest & Daniel Craig

I’m having a lot of fun procrastinating creating boards for my novels and one for a short story, MegaCool, that scissors and spackle just published. My European publisher has one for our book covers.  I can’t draw well (think stick figures), so it’s an outlet to display images that I had in my head while writing.

Do you use Pinterest for your writing or at all? Have you ever created an image board before or while you’re writing for inspiration?

Just as sensory details enrich your writing, they can also enhance your writing experience, so light candles, put on some music, maybe have some fragrant flowers or incense in the room and enjoy. Keep writing!

Pinterest & Daniel Craig

I’m having a lot of fun procrastinating creating boards for my novels and one for a short story, MegaCool, that scissors and spackle just published. My European publisher has one for our book covers.  I can’t draw well (think stick figures), so it’s an outlet to display images that I had in my head while writing.

Do you use Pinterest for your writing or at all? Have you ever created an image board before or while you’re writing for inspiration?

Just as sensory details enrich your writing, they can also enhance your writing experience, so light candles, put on some music, maybe have some fragrant flowers or incense in the room and enjoy. Keep writing!

and then we came to the end

heh

…but not of the blog! No, the end of your novel. How do you know when you’re finished? Last night, I had dinner with a group of writers and one reminded me I’d said I knew I’d finished my novel when I was so sick of the thing, I couldn’t go over it one more time. Well, there is that. But there’s also experience and feedback from your readers.

If you’ve gone over your manuscript 10-20 times, corrected the grammar, polished on multiple levels (sentences, paragraphs, chapters, sections, plus imagery and sensory details) checked for your personal writing tics (phrases, adverbs or adjectives that you lean on too heavily – do a word check for “just,” “really,” “suddenly” and so on; as my friend said, those are the “ums” of the literary world) and read the entire manuscript out loud, you might be finished or close to it. If your readers light up, saying you have something, that you’re close, and you trust them to tell you the truth and not what you want to hear, you can send excerpts to literary journals and see what kind of response you get. If you can afford it, hire a professional editor, preferably someone who’s taught literature and composition. Do your best to assemble a team who will inspire you to bring your A game, who will push you to do better and do it with kindness and generosity. Do the same for them if you’re exchanging writing/reading favors.

The final test comes from Rob Roberge – does your story reach a point where it could open up in a new way? That is where you want to stop. That will protect you from the “tie it all up with a bow” pat ending. You certainly don’t want a sentence – much less a paragraph – that sums up the book or the plot or the theme. Trust your reader.

By the way, the novel, And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is a fun read.

Writing as triathlon

The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.          ~E.B. White, The New York Times, August 3, 1942
Courtesy fightmedics.net

Writing a novel has three parts to it and was thinking how they’re each a marathon unto themselves and then I remembered helping a friend train for a triathlon. Aha, better metaphor. Point of reference – the Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile ocean swim, a 112 mile bike ride, then running 26.2 miles.

Our “ocean swim” is the sometimes grueling task of finishing the first draft. Initially refreshing, the challenge of the great middle, then you finally finish. Great, it’s done! And you think you’ve finished The Best Book Ever Written. Especially with the first novel. Then comes the rewriting and here’s what separates the novices from the seasoned, the dilettantes from the serious. The second leg is the rewriting and I’ve come to believe this stage is even more rigorous that the first draft. It takes a lot of discipline and patience to stick with it. How many times do you have to go through the darned thing? As many as it takes and at least three as Bernard Malamud wrote:
I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times–once to understand it,the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say.Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one’s fiction wants him to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to reform it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
              ~ “Long Work, Short Life,” quoted in The Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud, by Evelyn Gross Avery, SUNY Press, 2001.
I’m here to tell you that there are days when it does not feel like exquisite pleasure – it might feel like biking 112 miles under the hot sun! But I have learned to enjoy the process of revision. Tips? Get a few trusted readers and two of them need to have a thorough knowledge of craft. After you’ve done that and been through it at least three times, preferably six, hire a professional editor, but only after you cannot face going through it one more time.
You’ve survived two long rigorous events. Now you can rest, right? Oh no, my friend. Now comes the marathon of getting an agent, getting it to print, and promoting it. You may get lucky regarding an agent or publisher – once you’ve honed your craft, it’s about matching up with someone else’s tastes and needs. Again, this is when it’s invaluable to have “training buddies.” Get to know other writers at all stages of their careers who you can call on for advice or guidance. And give back. Don’t make any of your relationships a one way street. You don’t like it – news flash: neither do they. Offer to read and critique other writer’s work. Be kind – you know how hard it is.
So that’s our triathlon. Get partners so you can train properly and finish the race. Then, guess what? You get to do it all again and you will know why people sign up for the Ironman with one significant difference. People have many reasons for triathlons and for writing, but unless they are raising money for a cause, triathlons are more about personal goals. Writing fiction is about communication. You have an audience. Now go find it.

how do you do it?

Are you stuck in the doldrums and cannot finish your book? Welcome to the club. I don’t know a novelist who doesn’t get bored, fed up, finds the energy is gone, etc. in the middle of a novel, not to mention sick to death of the thing after going over it repeatedly in the rewrite process. In a way, I never “finished” any of mine, no artist finishes a work, you just have to stop when you cannot stand it another second and it’s as good as you can make it for now – which is just another way of saying it cannot be perfect because there’s no such thing.

I keep going by keeping going and sometimes I fail and other artists (often painters, sculptors, not to mention fellow writers in weekly check-ins) get me going again either through inspiration or pep talks … and sometimes I have to go for a drive by myself and scream at the top of my lungs. Another thing that helps is word or page count races with other writers or some other kind of accountability. Make a contract for yourself, sign it and give it to someone who will hold you to it.

Exercise helps too. I don’t ask about why I write or whether makes me happy because what makes me happy is having done the work, which is not that different from exercise. If I thought about how I feel about exercising in the morning, I’d never do it. I just start and feel better after. Take good care of yourself, but don’t fall into self indulgence. I’d argue you cannot be creative and sleep-deprived. Get some rest, but don’t get lazy.

Writing, painting, sculpting, music, etc – it’s all about communication. There are ways to get your work out even if you do it yourself. That’s what Smashwords is for. You have an audience. Someone is waiting for your book. Hopefully many someones. You may never know about it, but you owe it to them to get that book done and out into the world because somewhere – and maybe not even in your lifetime – there is someone who will read something you wrote and it will have an effect on their life. Maybe it will make them angry or happy or inspired or less alone or feel understood or maybe they will swear they can do it better and get of their butt to write their own damn book. Who knows?

Do your part. Finish your novel.