Friday ‘Fess Up + Four = Friday Five #5

(What is this? A combination of two Friday memes: the literate kitten’s invitation to ‘fess up to our crimes and misdemeanors against our writing efforts and a “friday five,” in which we list five random things about our week…)

1. ‘Fessing up: Considering the bad news about my manuscript (previous post), I did all right this week. Wrote 26 pages, and here’s the thing: I’m galvanized. I’m eager to finish this puppy, maybe even this weekend. There’s plenty going on in this head of mine, and I’m eager to set the first draft aside for a cooling-off period and work on other projects in the meanwhile. Nothing like bummer news to clear my head.

2. Fourth of July already? A writing buddy and I got together, she to give me reader feedback. We made plans to meet again in about two weeks (per usual) and she said, July 17th. Talk about dizzy and disoriented; I couldn’t get my head around the date: July 17th? Yes, she said, today is July 1st. July 1st? How did I not realize that I was two weeks behind the rest of the world? How does that happen?

3. Starbucks confession: I’m an anti-Starbucks kind of girl. Only a desperation move on behalf of the writing would get me to linger in that place. This week, oddly hot weather forced me out of my apartment. I rejected my favorite locally owned spot because I could tell I was on the verge of not writing at all — too much comfort would have sunk me into a sweaty, lethargic blob. So, off I drove to the nearest Starbucks because the place irks me so much I knew I’d lay down the pages pronto, the sooner to beat a vaguely shamefaced retreat. Perverse, right? But it worked.

4. Firefly, not the bug, the television show: Anyone out there seen “Firefly,” the Joss-Whedon-of-Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-fame creation? I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, and I’m digging it. It’s about wild-west cowboy marauders with hearts of gold — in space. It’s rather brilliant, but maybe you’ve got to be eccentric to like it. Unfortunately, it got pulled after only 14 episodes; the good news is that the movie “Serendity” ties up the dangling plotlines.

5. Photo of the week: Quick snapshot lest someone took me for a stalker. This dog-training obstacle course and pasture, corral, stable (not visible) exists a mere block from my place. In seven years, I’d never noticed this backyard Eden in the midst of urban suburbia — and how many thousands of times had I driven past? I finally noticed the pastoral scene because I’m now a dogwalker. There’s a lesson here, something about slowing down, sniffing flowers, petting horses…

I’M SAD | My Manuscript Didn’t Find a Home

When I received the message from my agent last night, I knew I wouldn’t be in for good news this morning. She wanted to touch base to let me know where we are with submissions.

Where are we? Nowhere. Thirty seven — count them, three tens and a seven — editor rejections. My agent has come to the end of her efforts with this novel. And I can now add 37 more rejections to the long list I’ve racked up.

This is irrational (what else would I be at this point?), but I feel like I have to start from scratch now, that the past decade’s worth of work meant nothing, that I have to re-think my way of writing novels. Or something. I know this is a lot of baloney, but this is how I feel.

Worse yet, I feel like the past year’s work on the current first draft has been a huge waste of time. I feel like since the editors didn’t vibe with the previous novel (even though they agree that I can write), they won’t like this one either because it’s the same style with similar themes, pacing, and etcetera etcetera etcetera blah blah blah fooey.

Frankly, I’m disappointed by the editors’ short-sightedness. So my novel doesn’t fit all the formulas, so what?

I’ll get up tomorrow; I’ll write; I’ll finish the current first draft even if it feels like a waste of time, because it will bug me if I don’t, and I’m just about done anyhow. Then, I’ll read through a previous novel that’s been sitting around in revised form for years, and I’ll send it to my agent because she’s still my agent, after all, and she’s interested in reading whatever I have to send her.

I like my agent, that much I can say. I’m not pleased with editors at the moment, but I like my agent.

But still…I feel like I’m starting from ground zero and it will be a few days before that bummeriness (not a word, I know, but I don’t care) filters out of my system. Oh, I don’t know. I’m rambling, and I’m not going to edit this post for coherency like I usually do. My manuscript deserves publication, and that’s my final word on the matter, full stop.

Now I’ll have dessert for dinner, watch some asinine show on the telly, and read until as late as I like.

Friday ‘Fess Up + Four = Friday Five #3

(What is this? A combination of two Friday memes: the literate kitten’s invitation to ‘fess up to our crimes and misdemeanors against our writing efforts and a “friday five,” in which we list five random things about our week…)

1. ‘Fessing up: I wrote 20 pages this week, and I finally feel like I broke through the “The End” barrier. I decided that even though I’m unsure about the series of scenes that are in my head, I’ve simply got to write them anyhow.

Like yesterday, I got going earlier than usual, and, once again, my groggy state proved beneficial to the writing. Just now (~10:45 a.m.) completed five pages in a little over two hours. No complaints here! As Sandi mentioned in a comment yesterday: They (the pages, that is) don’t have to be good, there only have to be five of them.

In general, I need to work on getting up and running on Mondays. I seem to start out the week slow and then push hard to get many pages written toward the end of the week.

2. Here’s a cool writerly-bookish website that received a mention on novelist Patricia Wood’s blog. It’s called “Book Roast.”

3. I don’t know what to write! This is strange — and truly random, so I guess my blank brain still fits with the Friday theme. I apparently haven’t had enough deep thoughts this week. Or, could be that because I blogged more than usual, I don’t have any interesting thoughts left…hmm…Or, it could be that I’m still in the fiction-dream as I write this…(Most likely, I need a nap.)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Picture

4. Nope, nothing, I’ve got nothing, except that I’m still thinking about adopting a shelter mutt. This weekend I hope to meet a one-eyed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix named Queenie. Poor thing was a stray with a severe eye injury.

5. Photo of the week: Oregon barn, site of rockin’ annual “barnfest” parties.

Five New Pages in Less Than Two Hours: A Miracle

It’s not yet 10:00 a.m., and I’m off to the park!

I’m officially done with my writing for the day. Five whole pages in less than two hours. It was a most momentous flow; it felt great, especially after yesterday, which was a dismal writing day. I was constipated about the current scene, agitated about the manuscript that’s with my agent (chronic state), and broody as a hen that ends up pecking its offspring’s eggshell.

(I did manage to EXPRESS MYSELF (see post just before this one) to three people, one of them in an actual face-to-face conversation! Wait, I suppose I communicated with four people, if I include my agent, and she’s nice and responsive, so she counts, too.)

Here’s why the words flowed so well, and my productivity has nothing to do with inspiration or creative excellence or diligent prep-work.


It’s this: I stumbled out of bed earlier than usual, which means I was basically still asleep while I wrote.

Still asleep. That’s the secret for me. Get up too early, groggy and sleep-deprived, and lay down the pages before my inner-critic and my distraction maven wake up. I ought to try that more often!

Call me Happy; the Words Flow Once Again

I’m sitting here in one of my favorite coffee houses, Palio, feeling relieved and happy. After weeks of slamming myself against the hump that is the end of my novel, I finally wrote five new pages.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yet I do get stymied sometimes. Seems like I spent most of April on a rollercoaster: Great idea! No, that sucks…A better idea! No, that sucks also…Talk about frustration.

I gave up the goat in May and completed other work on the manuscript and story, including lots of brainstorming (previously mentioned). This was probably good and necessary work, but when it comes to first drafts, I tend to discount effort that doesn’t produce shiny, new words on fresh new pages. I end up thinking to myself: What have I been doing with my time? And then feeling kind of crappy.

This week a couple of friends and I talked about the creative process. The key theme was “time.” As in: Creation has its own timeline. Ideas need a nurturing hand rather than my usual impatient whipcord.

What I wonder is: How much of my time away from newly written pages was legitimate (“filling the cup,” as the saying goes) and how much was excuse-making? What’s the difference between nurturance and procrastination anyhow? (And how can you tell the difference!?)

I sometimes wonder if I’m the only writer who faces this inner conflict. I’m sure I’m not, but sometimes it sure feels like it! What’s your take?


Okay, Ready to Finish This Puppy

After an unusually hot weekend that included toenails painted fresh for the season, my favorite sandals, and Australian Chardonnay served at an outdoor wine bar, I’m ready to kick myself into high gear: Finish this first draft!


You may recall from this post that I was stymied. After taking a break, reading the printed manuscript (hard copy seems to help), and completing initial revisions, I think, I hope, I pray, that I’m un-stymied.

So, with coffee rather than vino, I’m off!

Disciplining our Daydreams (When Writing)

Here’s a few photos from today’s coffee house: Papaccino’s. Complete with a shot of a fellow who tried to flirt with me awhile back (sleeping guy). Sometimes I’m clueless; now he ignores me.

Just now, I left a comment on the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management May 6th blog post. And there for all to see is a real-life example of how compulsive we writers can be. Rather than let my original comment with its dopey typo stand as is, I HAD to leave the comment a second time with typo corrected. (Did you find it?) Now I appear more daft for leaving the same comment twice, especially since I’m a client — eesh.

I’ve been meaning to answer a question from “lactatingbookworm” because, unfortunately, it got me thinking:

Hopefully, new ideas will pour in whether we outline our novels or not — and this is good, more to work with. Choose your most-comfortable writing method and know that “disciplining your daydreams” (or, revising, to translate your words into my vernacular) is part of the process.

If the goal is to write a coherent and enjoyable novel, then pruning away those wondrous ideas and plotlines that don’t work is a must. You can choose when to prune: after you’ve written the first draft, while you’re developing an outline, while you’re writing the first draft, all along the way. I’m an all-along-the-way person these days.

Sounds like you’ve got a partial outline completed. Personally, I don’t need to know every last plot point before I start (though I write in-depth character analyses; have you tried this?). At some point, you just have to start — or re-start in your case. You can stop at any point to outline further.

This is my take on your question, lactatingbookworm. Hope it helps.  Truth is, anyone with staying-power, an idea, and the urge to write can complete a first draft — but does a first draft a novel make? Nah. You gotta have revision. And this is liberating! You can filter a muddy awful mess into a clear flow.

I imagine some seasoned novelists don’t revise much, but let’s not count them, okay?



The Ducky State of my Writing

My cat is interested.For the past 10 days I’ve been observing Mr. and Mrs. Mallard from my balcony in an attempt at mindfulness. For months I’d heaped stress on myself: Gotta finish the first draft, gotta finish the first draft, an endless and exhausting mantra. In a comment to this post, “oh” hoped that I had returned to the manuscript after a bad day. Yep, but not in the same way. I needed to step back from the mantra.

     (Mr. and Mrs. Mallard arrived around
      March 4th, and my cat still thinks
      he can make a meal of them. –> )

Last week, I printed out my almost-completed first draft, read it, and am now revisiting various story threads. Back at about 120 pages (November posts) into the manuscript I went through the same exercise, and it helped immensely.

Gotta say, it feels good to use the revision part of my brain rather than the first-draft part of my brain. In an odd way, I find it relaxing, which has to be what a writing doctor would have ordered.

Funny thing is, I have three previous novels under my belt, and their endings arrived on mental silver platters: easy cheesy. So this situation is new to me. Probably why I was so stressed out. It might mean that I’m not as clear on the story as I thought I was. We’ll see! Another learning lesson under way.

( <– After going MIA for many weeks, Mrs. Mallard reappeared on Monday with her new family.)

P.S. Last Word on That Darned Climax Epiphany

Okay, enthused again. Crazy, the ups and downs of my writer’s life. After kvetching this morning (previous post), then getting down to work; after many hours at the computer to semi-fruitful end; after lazing around for awhile, I had a thought. Truly, this one felt like it popped out of a machine in my head. (BigD, you philosopher, you getting my drift?)

It seems I’d only had part one of my epiphany; I needed today’s part two to complete the thought.

It’s this: What I thought to be the logical and realistic scene locations to follow my climax bored the snot right back up into my sinuses. This was the source of my anticlimactic feeling. To think, even in fiction location location location can be everything.

In this case, a shift to an unexpected location (for me, the writer, that is) adds to suspense because my protagonist must act in a surprising way to get us to that location. But not out-of-character; in fact, more in character given his current emotional turmoil and stymied circumstances.

And, relating this back to this morning’s post: I see what I’m doing with suspense here. It’s not whodunit-plot-twist related; the added suspense comes straight out of character. I’m not against twists, don’t get me wrong, but for this story I do indeed want the answers to the questions I posed this morning to be “yes.”

This is the first time a shift in location (rather than, say, changing the point of view character, delaying a revelation, or cutting a useless scene) solved a story snafu. By golly, I’ve learned something! Now, this possibility will always be in my repertoire.

Angst and Bad Writing Juju

Yet another angst-ridden, as-yet-unpublished novelist’s moment, a frustrated and self-doubting moment, an all-too-familiar and tiresome moment that previously led me to rant against succubus novels. Three posts ago, I mentioned my epiphany about the climax scene. I wrote that scene last week. Now, it feels anticlimactic.

I was so jazzed before I wrote the scene, so what happened? I suspect, though I don’t know for sure, that the answer relates to suspense. I’ve been giving this concept a lot of thought. Here’s what occurs to me:

I might be torturing myself about what constitutes suspense that gets acquiring editors a-drooling. And this may be because I just finished reading the latest crime novel by a bestselling novelist, and this bestseller loves the surprise whodunit twist within a twist within a twist until the plot is wrung dry as dust.

As I’ve come to expect from certain writers, this novel’s culprits were indeed characters who appeared or were mentioned only in passing. They didn’t even merit “subplot character” status. I’ll admit that I was surprised by one of the villains, but that was because I’d forgotten this character existed. The twist felt like bad storytelling juju to me — ham-fisted and too manipulative — yet it got under my skin. This novelist sells; she must be doing something right, right?

(Sidenote: Seems to me I vowed (this post) to read only nonfiction until I completed the first draft. Alas, case in point for reinstating that vow right here, right now: I’m letting another novelist’s trickiness mess with my head. Susceptible, that’s me; hence, the vow.)

Questions to self: Can’t the culprit be a character that readers might actually suspect? Can’t the surprise and suspense stem from unanswered WHYs or HOWs? Can’t the cool thing be the way the disparate puzzle pieces fit together? Given interesting, well-rounded characters, can’t their personal-story resolutions count for as much with acquiring editors as whodunit resolutions?

I’m just asking, that’s all I’m saying, just asking.

P.S. Will get back to the cliffhanger from last Friday later this week — if I can remember where I was heading with that post!