Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I am a distracted writer. I didn’t start out that way—but now I have a ten-month-old son. When he was first born, I struggled with how writing fit into my life. Before Riley, nothing distracted me. I ignored the Internet, TV, dirty dishes and my husband with ease. It was all background clutter that phased out as I sat and pounded out about 3000-5000 words a day.
My world has changed. Giving up writing was never an option, so I’ve had to adjust. At least until Riley can sit next to my laptop and play for four hours without complaint, and I’m sure that will happen any day now.
In my new writing world, a few minutes of uninterrupted writing time is unbelievably precious (I’ve already been pulled away from writing this blog four times). Before I could slowly seep into writing, taking fifteen or twenty minutes to do a little rereading and get back into the feel and voice of the text. No longer. One way I’ve adapted to the change is the almighty playlist.
I’ve always created playlists for my novels. Before it was an exercise in fun. Now it is mandatory.
Just before Riley takes his nap, I start listening to the novel’s playlist. This helps to pull me into the mood of the text and gets me excited about writing. That way, when he goes down for his nap, I click off the playlist and I am ready to start writing/editing/doing whatever I need to do immediately.
I listen to the playlist in other places as well, such as in the car or when we first get up in the morning--anytime that I want to feel the characters around me.
I started my current WIP, Protector, when Riley was two months old. I don’t know how many times we’ve listened to the thirteen songs on Protector’s playlist. I’m ready for his first words to be lyrics.
Playlists aren’t the only way that I have adjusted my writing methods since Riley. A few other things:
- Theme. On the top of my laptop I have a post it note reminding me of the theme for my WIP. This keeps me focused on the central aspects of the novel.
- Hand writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing by hand on occasion. I used to sit under a tree at the park and scribble away. Now I do it at home too when it isn’t convenient for me to be at the laptop.
- No Internet during rough drafts. I disconnect the Internet and drop it where I can’t reach it.
- Setting aside specific times to blog, write and read. This all revolves around Riley’s nap schedule. For the morning nap, I blog, respond to emails and get done any Internety thing I need to do (pay bills, research, etc). Afternoon is dedicated to my WIP. After dinner, when my husband is home, if I have time, I use it for critiquing or reading.
- Focus on one WIP at a time. I never used to do this--I would flip between two open WIP in any one writing session. Now I focus on one at a time. On the rare occasion that I am home alone (it has happened twice since Riley was born), I go back to the working on two at once and wonder how I used to do that.
- Talk about it. Riley knows more about my WIP than anyone--including me. I read out loud to him, discuss plot issues with him, explain character reactions to him. I also talk to the animals during their visits (I’m a petsitter/dog walker). This helps me to work out problems when I can’t be at my laptop.
- Enjoy life. I love being a mom. I feel so honored that I get to spend everyday with Riley. He is with me almost 24 hours per day, and I still feel like that isn’t enough time. I also love being a writer. Our days get a little crazy sometimes between the petsitting and writing and just being a ten-month old, but it is a life that I would choose again and again. Sure things suck sometimes--money is tight and I hate how my husband has to work M-F and I work Sat and Sun, meaning we never have days off together, but that’s all details. I am a mom, a wife and a writer. Life doesn’t get better than that.
What keeps you on task while writing? Any suggests for how to limit distractions and retain focus? I’ll try anything!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I have been wallowing in mopey broken hearts in my WIP, so I wanted to do something a bit different for the blogfest. Here is my entry---
Letter to the woman I saw kissing my husband outside the Dollar Mart:
You may think that your attentions toward my husband have gone unnoticed. Let me assure you that this is not the case.
Let us begin this lesson with some definitions of terms.
1. My eternal life partner.
2. The father of my children.
3. He is mine. Get your own, bitch.
1. Your worst nightmare.
2. For real.
Now that these definitions are clear, I want to illustrate the error of your ways when you chose to suck face with my husband (eternal life partner; father of children; mine, not yours) outside of the Dollar Mart while your cellulited ass hung out of your postage stamp sized mini skirt.
Your first error was in thinking that my husband is going to provide you any kind of solace or happiness or, for that matter, anything else. While I can see from your excessively dyed hair and acne scars that you are in need of some solace, you will never receive said solace from my husband. You see, he provides me (your worst nightmare; for real) these benefits per the already agreed upon arrangement where he is my husband (eternal life partner; father of children; mine, not yours).
You may be thinking that I should take this issue up with my husband. He has his own letter to read and that, just like my husband’s lips, is none of your business.
Your second error was to assume that I would sit idly by and observe this attention toward my husband without response. You see, I am a woman of action [ak-shuh n]. And that is where my attention is currently focused: future action.
Some might use the term revenge to describe this yet to be revealed future action. I, however, would not apply that term. When a bank robber is sentenced to prison, we do not call it revenge. It is more aptly described as punishment. The goal of this punishment is to keep the criminal (you, suck-face-whore-of-evilness) from becoming a repeat offender. You see, I can tell from your skankish ways outside the Dollar Mart that this is not the first time you have attempted to claw your cheaply polished hooks into someone else’s husband. I am confident that the aforesaid punishment will cure your recidivist ways.
Perhaps, with so much of your attention diverted to the way that you whoreishly twist your hips and pout your lips, you have failed to notice me (your worst nightmare; for real). This is an admission on your part that will be rectified shortly.
I will be seeing you. Soon.
Your worst nightmare. For real.
Thanks for reading! Head back to the blogfest here!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Shiny new ideas are all around me. I can’t go anywhere without tripping over a novel idea. I have a word document that is page upon page of ideas, random characters, random scenes. Things that I thought up forever ago and have completely forgotten about.
I used to jump on shiny new ideas immediately and test them out. I would start writing just to play around. I have around thirty books that I’ve started writing. A few of them are just a few of the first pages. Some are detailed outlines. Over half of them are more than 10k words. A handful are over 25k.
Does every writer have as many false starts? Why does it take me 10k words before I know if I want to write the novel or not?
It feels like this is a ridiculous amount of wasted time. I tell myself this isn’t the case—that with every start I learn more about world building, about creating characters, about different voices, about who I am as a writer.
And maybe I just need to accept my madness—that this is how I decide what to write. I have to try on an idea too see if it fits, how it feels, how it moves and flows. At least I don’t have to write 50k or 80k before I decide if an idea fits me.
At what point do you decide to drop a novel?
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Should we read their blogs? Take their general advice? Hang onto their every word?
First let me start by saying that this is not a “bash the agent” post. Far from it--agents are generally intelligent people who know way more about the publishing industry than little ol’ me. I appreciate any agent willing to put their efforts into a blog/website/conference, and I usually find agent advice valuable and thoughtful.
What, then, am I talking about?
Writers are artists. And I believe one part of every artist’s job description is to push lines, to be creative, and to ignore what is saleable. When a writer is faced with a blank page, their first allegiance should be to the work--the story and characters and themes. Artists are limited only by their own abilities, and everything they attempt should push at the edges of those abilities.
Agents are focused on what is saleable. I’m not saying that agents aren’t interested in creativity and stories that push boundaries. Quite the opposite--agents (generally) are looking for new and different. But a certain kind of new and different; a kind of new and different that they can sell. Agents are operating within certain familiar boundaries.
My argument is that writers shouldn’t limit themselves to the boundaries that surround agents. Therefore, when an agent gives writing advice, writers need to take that advice for what it is--coming from a place where new and different must also be saleable. It is pointed advice, and pointed advice should always be taken with caution.
If we, as artists, limit ourselves to what is saleable, then we become shadows of what we could be--of what we could achieve. Our growth should only be limited by our desire--not by what type of voice is currently selling or how many words a manuscript should have.
Certainly a writer’s viewpoint will differ from mine depending on the urgency to which she feels the publishing dogs nipping at her heels. And my viewpoint changes when I am on submission and trying to elicit agent attention (if they aren’t driven away by this crazy post :D).
But when it first begins--when we are looking a blank page that’s only watermark is endless possibilities, then we shouldn’t limit ourselves, shouldn’t hold back and shouldn’t listen to what anyone else has to say.
Monday, March 7, 2011
The day that Caesar returned to Rome, the city dripped with an endless humid heat. I sat, not yet knowing what the day would bring, watching two men fight. Sweat burned my face. I could feel the heat of the sand pressing up through my sandals like a fever spreading up from my soles to my ankles to my knees.
The Forum spread out before us. The center of Rome. The center of the world. Stone buildings surrounded a wide rectangle of sand and cement. Between the temples and government halls bustled shopkeepers, prostitutes, rushing women and tight groups of talking men. People moved away from the two fighting men quickly, used to the constant turmoil of human interactions always on public display in the Forum. No one bothered to step between them.
I didn’t know why the two men were fighting. I didn’t really care. It was too hot to fight. And, because of that, Severus had let us out of training early. He had even allowed us the rare opportunity to leave the training house. Usually, I would have been disappointed, but sitting in the forum hoping for one small cooling breeze, I couldn’t complain. I wondered, however, if Severus’ decision had more to do with Caesar’s impending return than the heat. A hot day in Rome was a common occurrence.
Marius laughed next to me as he watched the men fighting. We sat at the bottom for the steps of the Temple Concord. Marius stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned back against the steps, pulling at the leather armor that wrapped his arm.
“Why didn’t you leave your armor at the training house?” I asked.
Marius shrugged. “I was eager to get out of there,” he said with a sigh. He pushed away dark hair that curled slightly on his forehead and twisted toward me.
“The little guy,” he said thoughtfully.
“No way,” I argued. “He’s a stump. One good hit and he’ll be down.”
Marius laughed. “Never doubt the smaller one,” he said. “You should know.”
I glared at him. The small man ducked around his larger opponent, obviously scared of him. As he avoided a strong blow, he fell back and then quickly scrambled up to his feet. It was not an appealing picture. Was he trying to insult me?
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.
“Aria, you’re like the size of a nymph. And a small nymph at that.”
“I’m not a nymph,” I said quietly. Marius’ comparison burned in my thoughts. I looked down at my legs, singed with a warrior’s tan from the cut of my greaves. Nymphs were feminine and sensual and everything I was not.
Marius was broad and strong, and his easy smile was seared into my mind. I looked at him now. He wiped sweat from his forehead, and for one moment, I didn’t abhor the heat. But Marius had never noticed me. We had trained together in the same collegia for over a year, but he saw me only as a fighter—never as a girl. I quickly turned my thoughts and my eyes away from Marius. I tried not to think about the spoils that he received for choosing so notorious a profession. I was quite certain those girls did not sport a warrior’s tan.