Posts Tagged ‘navel gazing’

…and that makes you follow through with it?

Well, that.

My life is littered with half-finished projects.  Scarves that are partially crocheted, needlework still on the hoop, a library only halfway cataloged, diet plans abandoned.  And then there are my novels, the things I’ve sweated blood over, that are all in a perpetual state of work-in-progress or still-editing or please-don’t-ask-me,-I’m-too-ashamed-to-say-I-haven’t-worked-on-it.

As part of my non-resolution to “be a better person” this year, I’m setting goals for myself as a writer, hoping that they will help me think positively and stay on track.  Too often, I get off track and then beat myself up over it.  No more of that, says New 2012 Me.

To that end, here are my three major projects and the goals I’m setting:

YA Novel 1: My contemporary YA novel (2008) and its unfinished sequel (2009), which are now being combined into one book.  The first book has been transferred into Scrivener, and I’ve been tinkering with it on and off for several years.  I got discouraged with the rewriting process, probably because I didn’t really know what I was doing, and so I didn’t work on it as diligently as I should.  Then, several months ago, I had a small epiphany about the timeline of the story and decided to incorporate major plot points from the sequel into the first book.  This change will up the stakes and tension, and I think it puts the novel firmly in the coming-of-age category.  I’m in the process of importing those sections into Scrivener and rearranging the outline.  That project was put on hold while I wrote my adult novel, but I’m now very anxious to see how it looks when it’s all put together.
New draft into readers’ hands: January 31, 2012
Query-able draft ready: April 1, 2012

(And you know what?  If it turns out that I still can’t get a query-ready draft out of this thing, I’ll put it in a freaking drawer.)

Adult Novel 1: My most recently finished work from NaNoWriMo 2011.  Right now, the rough draft is in the hands of four readers.  I’ve received feedback from one so far (thanks Kristen!), and it was very positive.  I know I have a lot of work to do fleshing the book out, but my reader thinks it’s got great commercial potential.  I agree with her (by the way, positive thinking is one of my goals for this year!).  I haven’t begun rewriting in earnest yet, but I am ruminating a lot on what I’d like to add while the feedback rolls in.
New draft into readers’ hands:  February 29, 2012
Query-able draft ready: June 1, 2012

YA Novel 2: My semi-paranormal contemporary YA novel, begun in 2010 and currently on hiatus.  I still really love this concept, but I am determined to finish decent drafts of my other two books before diving into this one again.  My goal is to start work on it again mid-year.
First draft into readers’ hands: December 31, 2012
Query-able draft ready: TBA

I don’t know whether these goals are too ambitious, not ambitious enough, or what.  I’m still very much a novice when it comes to these kinds of things.  I don’t want to send a complete load of crap to agents, but I also don’t want my manuscripts to languish on my computer for years and years while I debate whether to change a sentence or not.

The other reason I’m setting these goals is that I want to be ready for the Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference at the end of June.  I’m determined to go this year, and I’ll have pitches and samples and business cards and everything.  Until then, I’m focusing on networking and learning as much as possible about agents and publishing options.  I’ll be attending book clubs and meet-ups and write-ins.   I’ll even be presenting a moderated talk about YA Fiction through my writing program.  More on that to come, when the details are ironed out.

Sticking to these deadlines will be hard.  There are any number of roadblocks in my path.  I have a full-time job, a husband, friends and family, and other hobbies.  I’m also a pathological procrastinator (is that a thing?  I think it’s a thing).  Like many other writers, I suffer from anxiety and depression (mild, thank God), and while it’s getting better, it’s never really gone.  My roadblocks are certainly not unique, but they are mine.

But like so many of the writers I admire, I will push past those hurdles.  When I fall, I’ll pick myself up and limp along with a bloody knee until the next obstacle in my path.

And please, in a few days or weeks or months, ask me how my book is coming along.  I promise not to bite.*


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Sayonara, 2011!

It’s New Year’s Eve!  The last day to get all of your 2011 resolutions done.

Didn’t lose those 40 pounds?  Better get on the treadmill!

House still a mess?  Call an emergency maid service!

Novel still unfinished?  Ice your fingers and start typing!

Still stuck in old job?  Better get out the want ads!

No boyfriend or girlfriend? Match.com that shizz!

Resolutions, schmesolutions.

For me, 2011 was both a blessing and a curse.  Some really great things happened.  We sold our house and moved into a lovely new house in a wonderful neighborhood.  I screwed up the courage to get out of not one but two jobs that weren’t right for me and found one that is.  I finished a first draft of a new novel (!!!).  I had several epiphanies about the YA book I’ve been writing since time began.  I started leading a local Forever Young Adult book club, which has introduced me to new books and a lot of nice new people.  I read good books and saw interesting plays and attended fun concerts.  I traveled to weddings of people I loved and revisited some of my favorite cities.

It was also a rough year.  Switching jobs is hard.  Selling and buying a house is really stressful.  So is major surgery.  And death in the family.  And a home break-in.

So, I’m glad to see the end of 2011.  It’s been a rollercoaster year, and I’m ready for a little more peace and quiet in my life.  I can only believe that 2012 will be better.  I have a lot of hopes and aspirations and dreams that I plan to work toward in the upcoming year, but I’m old enough now to realize that it doesn’t mean that I failed if they don’t materialize.  It’s the trying that counts, no matter what Yoda says.

I’m also old enough to count my blessings.  While 2011 was rocky, I’m still alive, still have friends and family, still have a (lovely) roof over my head.  There are many out there who are not as fortunate.  The last day of the year is a time of celebration, but it’s also a time to eke out a last donation to charity in the 2011 tax year.  So, if that’s an impetus for you, go ahead and make life better for someone else.

And please, be careful out there tonight!

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During the holidays, I go a little overboard. I listen to a lot of Christmas music, watch silly made-for-TV holiday movies on ABC Family, sit through multiple viewings of holiday favorites like Love Actually and Elf, and work on Christmas cards and holiday mixtapes. This year, I went a bit crazy decorating our new house (Lights! Tree! Stockings on the mantle! Two evergreen arrangements! Handmade wreath! Candles!).

These things all help me cope with the fact that I’m a terrible Christmas shopper. Not that I give bad gifts (well, occasionally maybe I do)… but that I wait until the last minute to shop and then want to impale myself upon a candy cane. Why can I just not get it together?

It is December 14th. Yikes.

To add insult to injury, the universe is conspiring against me with some sort of faux popularity: since Sunday, I’ve hosted one Christmas party and attended three others (technically tonight’s party was book club, but still…). I’m hosting my in-laws for Christmas this weekend and attending yet another party on Saturday. I think I need liposuction and a new liver at this point.

So, like I mentioned, I have escapism to help me procrastinate. But there’s no holiday escapism tradition quite as dear to me as The Reading of the Holiday Romance Novels.


I said it.

I don’t know what it is about reading charming Happily-Ever-Afters at Christmastime, but I do it every single year. It started when I was in high school and read a lot of Regency romances. I picked up a compilation of Recency Christmas stories at some point, probably at the grocery store or Walmart, and I never looked back. I’ve delved into contemporary Christmas compilations and stand-alone novels. This year, I started off by reading Let It Snow, a rollicking YA Christmas compilation from John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

I’ve read ’em all. Snow-bound strangers forced to share a cabin and blankets and body heat? Check. Old friends reuniting for the holidays and feeling that old spark return? Check. Stories set around Christmas pageants or novelty Christmas calendar shoots? Check. Collections of short but intertwined stories set in exotic locales? Check check check!

But I keep coming back to the Regencies. There’s something about kissing boughs, gentlemen in tight breeches and cravats, chopping down the yule log, snowball fights while wearing empire-waist gowns, giant country house parties, and bluestockings who land the ton’s most eligible reformed rake that just bring on the holiday cheer for me. I cannot stop myself. Right now I’m plowing through a bunch of Mary Balogh Christmas paperbacks that I got at a local charity shop (it happens to support East Lake Pet Orphange, where I got my dog, so yay for that!). I know that when I go home for Christmas I’ll break into the stash stored under my childhood bed to read a few battered compilations and my all-time favorite Christmas Regency, Barbara Metzger’s Christmas Wishes.

Seriously, look at his gleaming hair! The cover has a giant bow and holly. A pet pig plays a significant role in the plot. What's not to love?

You guys, I’m supposed to be cool. I watch foreign films and go to edgy plays and listen to obscure music and have nerdy conversations and live in a hip neighborhood and travel to far-off places… how, exactly, does reading sickeningly sweet Christmas romances fit in with that?

Oh, who cares? They make me happy. Sue me.

Dear reader, what is your favorite Christmastime book?

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So, I finished.  Just barely.  I started out so strongly, but I was derailed by a few things:

1. Laziness.  Or procrastination.  Whatever you want to call it.  But yeah, that thing.
2. Violent disgusting upper respiratory infection of death.  I believe that is the actual medical term for it. Cue the steroid shot, z-pack, and hydrocodone-laced cough syrup.
3. Death in the family.  Even though it was expected, losing my grandmother was pretty awful.
4. Trip to Paris!  Straight from the funeral, still sick with the upper respiratory infection, I spent Thanksgiving in Paris!  Who wants to write when you have a lovely apartment, delicious food, wine for days, and you can curl up on the couch with your husband and watch music videos (sometimes in French!)?

So anyway, that made for a lot of last-minute typing and truly awful writing.  I’m not even calling this a first draft, because it’s really just the skeleton of a zero draft.  All bones and a little muscle but no real meat or fat.  But it’s a complete story, beginning-middle-end and everything.

I guess that’s not a bad thing, right?  That’s what NaNoWriMo is about, for me at least.  Force yourself to write.  Get words on the page.  Go back and fix later.

But I would have been a lot happier if I hadn’t waited until the last four days to write OVER HALF THE BOOK.

Some observations from my process and the finished (ha ha!) product:

I need to work on the characters.  Right now, the four main characters are somewhat loosely-defined.  They have backstories and jobs and wants and pressures, but they all. sound. exactly. the. same.  When they talk, I mean.  I need to give them their own voices, and I need their personalities to shine a bit more.  Or a lot more.

I had a hard time at first with my narrator, Bea.  I just could not get into her head at all.  It got easier as it went on, especially as she grew and changed.  The other three main characters (the love interest, the best friend, the cousin) are all new favorites of mine.  I had a lot of fun writing them.  I just need to spend more time with them, I think.

Secondary characters?  Oh, they’re all pretty one-note right now.  They need depth and nuance and I just need to sit down and think about them.  The book is set in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, so you know there are kooky characters and crazy backstories just waiting to pop out of the woodwork.  But I don’t want it to get all Gilmore Girls, right?  One can only take so many characters.

First person point of view means inner monologue.  Yeah.  I kind of forgot all about that.  And it’s one of the reasons I love some of my favorite books.  So, must fix this.

Description, description, description.  I kept forgetting to use my senses.  There are huge chunks of mostly-just-dialogue and one sentence paragraphs.  We go on an amazing hike with the characters through the Ozark National Forest, and I’m all “the mountains were beautiful.”  Really?  That’s what I came up with?  Beautiful mountains?  Break out the thesaurus!  Read some poetry!  Go on the damn hike yourself, and write down what you see!  I need to utilize the part of Scrivener where you write about settings… maybe that would help. 

I’ve written before that I’m just not very good at this sort of thing.  Must get better.

Writing a book for adults is fun (sorta!).
  Sex scenes and cursing!  And work schedules!  Wait, what?  Yeah.  While I got to let loose a little with the content, I had a host of new things to worry about.  How is Bea paying her mortgage?  Who’s watching the shop while she’s off fighting battles with her ex-fiance’s wife?  What’s Parker’s work schedule anyway – he always seems to be hanging around the bookstore, so when is he actually earning money?  Did we remember to feed the dog and let her pee?  Can a hipster farmer actually make a living with an organic vegetable stand?  Do I understand any of the legal issues I bring up in the book?

And does any of that actually matter?  How important is that type of realism to this book?

Location scouting time!
  I need to spend a weekend in the little town that my fictional town is based upon.  That will help with everything, I think.  The town is almost a character itself, and even though I come from the backwoods, I’ve been in the big city for so long that I need to revisit small town life.  It’s geographically very un-similar to Dallas, too, and I think I need to reacquaint myself with that type of topography.

It’s very close to my parents’ house, so perhaps I can sneak in a little trip over Christmas.  Otherwise, though, I think this calls for a weekend away.  A cozy, relaxing, refreshing weekend away.

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Since we last spoke (technically, since I last wrote and you last read):

1. I got a new job.  Still arts administrating, but for a smaller organization.

2. We sold our house.

3. We lived in a temporary house for a little while, with no TV (the horror!).

4. We bought a house and moved in.

5. I had emergency gallbladder surgery (and lived to tell the tale!).

6. I didn’t write a single word for any of my projects.

7. I did read a ton of books.

8. I bought a new computer, because my old one froze all the time, especially when I was using my writing program.

9. I had a writing epiphany.

#8 happened yesterday, and #9 happened today, literally less than an hour ago, as I was on my way home from work.  I’ve got a brand new writing tool (laptop), a brand new place to write (the third bedroom that we turned into a library/office/new favorite room ever), and a brand new idea about how to revise my first novel so that it has drama and character development and high stakes, and all those other things a good book needs.

So, yay.  I’m back.  Stay freakin’ tuned.

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  What have I been up to lately that has kept me from blogging?

Decorating and Cleaning

Our house is a flurry of activity these days.  Last week, a handyman came fix a few things, and today there were electricians and painters galore.  We’re having all of the wood on the outside of our house sanded, primed, and painted, so that it will be fresh and cheery for potential buyers!  We also had some work done on the outdoor electricity, making sure all of our floodlights and landscape features were working properly.

This weekend is Landscaping Part II.  We already cleared out the flowerbeds in the front of the house, and now it’s time to tackle the back.  I’m pleased that some of our perennials are popping up already, and I’m planning to buy some sweet potato vines, pansies, and other pretty things to beautify the yard.

We’ve also started the Giant Culling of 2010.  I weeded through my closet and found a mountain of clothes and shoes to donate.  We’ve got a few things of mine and a ton of Victor’s to take to consignment shops.  I pulled some books out of my library to either sell or donate, whichever works.  We went through our junk drawer, which was – surprise! – full of junk.  We’ve earmarked a TV + entertainment console for craigslist, and we bought a bunch of bins to store unnecessary clutter until we move.

I rearranged the library and found that we have an American Foreign Policy section.  Who knew?  And that brings us to…


So, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and it was freaking amazing.  Since then, two other friends have read it and another has started it.  I’m on a quest to get everyone to read this book (right after they read The Book Thief, of course). 

Flying Changes by Sara Gruen was just as good as the first book in that series, Riding Lessons. Her books always feel so homey, and I never want them to end.  Civil and Strange by Cláir Ní Aonghusa took a long time to read, but eventually it felt homey too, and it strengthened my resolve to retire to the Irish countryside.

I also read This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, and I loved it so much that Victor read it (he doesn’t read many novels).  He loved it too.  Incidentally, Victor would like to retire to the coast of Mexico, so I wonder how we’re going to juggle two homes on two continents…

For the Back to the Classics Challenge (which has been extended until December!), I’m chugging along.  My results so far:

  1. A Banned Book
  2. A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)  Currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  3. A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up
  4. A Children’s/Young Adult Classic  I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. 19th Century Classic
  6. 20th Century Classic
  7. A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic  I read Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  8. Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes

(By the way, I mentioned reading Little Bee for this challenge on Twitter, and Chris Cleave tweeted at me!  I’m famous!  Kristen helped out a little with that, so she’s famous now too!)

So, reading’s been going pretty well, especially considering how little free time I’ve had lately.  Which brings us to…



I have not been doing well on the writing front.  I keep having great ideas, but somehow they refuse to leave my brain and enter the computer.  I have done some research on agents and query letters and while that’s great, you can’t send out an unfinished manuscript and waaah!  Flail!

I am just not in the right place to be creative right now, I think.  It will come eventually.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep jotting down my ideas and notes in Scrivener, and I’ll get there somehow.  Anyone who wants to send some writing mojo my way, please feel free.

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That’s what I want.  A cabin in the woods with a rocking chair and crickets and scary woods noises.  I want it to not be 100+ degrees, and I really want it to be autumn.  I want to wear the green cashmere cardigan I picked up in Alexandria, Virginia last week and drink an entire pot of tea.  I want, I want, I want.

If my dad was reading this (and if he is, hi dad!), he would tell me to want in one hand and piss in the other… and see which one fills up first.

So instead I’m going to try to write a bit today in my living room with the air conditioning battling the Texas heat outside.  I have the day off, because we’re heading to the Catskills tomorrow to watch two friends get married.  We were originally leaving today, but best laid plans and all that.  So I’m left with a rare day off, before we get all cozy and snuggly with dear old friends in the mountains.

My dear friend Jake is traipsing around Europe because he’s young and beautiful, and that’s what you do when you’re young and beautiful.  Maybe he’s also bold and restless.  He’s the marriage of two classic soap operas that I never watched.  Anyway, his blog makes me want to be a better blogger.  So here I am.  Trying.  And I just noticed that we both have graffiti at the top of our blogs, because we’re cool like that.

Here’s a picture of Murphy’s attempted photoshoot as a Southern gentleman:

bowties & whiskey

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