December 30, 2011

How This Writer Has Grown

It's the end of the year and like everyone else I'm reflecting on all of the things that I've done to move forward on this path to becoming a published author...and all of the things that have tripped me up. I'm heading into year three, a relative writing newbie still, but I'm feeling less disconcerted and more grounded as a writer. When I began this year, I was querying my first novel. I was a bundle of nerves and as unsteady on my writer legs as a newborn colt. I gave my first agent pitch at a conference near my house with my eyes bulging out of my head and my mouth spewing out more words per minute than any sane person could digest. My novel was nowhere near marketable, well-written according to the agents kind enough to give me feedback, but too quiet. I had no idea how to work social media and only a cursory understanding of the whole publishing process. But I was hungry to learn and eager to do better. As the year rolled along a few key things happened to get me solidly on the right path.

December 5, 2011

Ideas Are Everywhere

Some people wonder where writers get their ideas. I can tell you that they come in a thousand tiny moments throughout any given day. Writers who are parents happen to be exceptionally blessed. I promise you at least half of my funniest scenes or most heartbreaking moments grow from little moments like these:

My nine year old daughter, Sam, said the funniest thing today.
First, she showed me this little guy:


Then she said: “We’re having a staring contest.”
 She waited a beat with that perfect comic’s timing of hers and then heaved out a sigh.
“He always wins.”

My five year old, Riley, not to be outdone, made me laugh in the car a little later on. We were stuck in traffic—on a bridge no less. She leaned forward and let me know that she had to potty…number two to be exact—trust me you need to know this to fully enjoy what comes next. I let her know that we were far from any exit and that she had to wait or go on the side of the bridge with a full audience. She proceeded to play and squirm and then she tapped my seat again. “Mommy, I have to go…now. It’s this bad.” She cupped her hands around her eyes to mimic giant google eyes, like these:


I could barely steer the car into the closest store. She ran in barefoot, hair flying, and butt cheeks pressed tight together.


November 5, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Whenever I start a new story I am full to the brim with warm fuzzies. All I can think about is my shiny new idea and how much I love it. I fantasize that this one will the THE ONE, the story that tips me over the wall between aspiring author me and published author me. I think about it non-stop, write with abandon, giggle over my own cleverness and generally make everyone around me sick with my constant declarations:
I LUV this story.
This is IT, people, be ready!
 No one has ever loved their book idea more than me—isn’t it adorable?
Annnnd then I hit page fifty or so and the first hiccups in my love story start to happen. I tell myself it’s a fluke, I’ll overcome whatever tiny plot problem is niggling at me. After all, this is my Pooky Bear. I don’t give up on things that I love. I huddle over my computer, whine just a little and get back to work.
Enter page one hundred where my story burps and grows an enormous gut and demands that I do all the heavy lifting while he just sits around watching CSI reruns. I begin to wonder what I ever saw in him. I start to resent his oversized middle and underdeveloped manners. I start to wonder what it would be like to kick him out for awhile so I can go out with the girls and explore my other options. In other words, I toy very seriously with the idea of quitting him.
But then somewhere after page one hundred but before page two hundred and fifty, I remember something important, something true. Love isn’t everything when it comes to writing a novel. Heck, love isn’t even half of it. Dedication, perseverance, tenacity—these are what drive me all the way to the finish line. Because although love is what gets me started, it very rarely carries me through. Novel writing isn’t a honeymoon. It’s hard work filled with far more middlin to low moments than high-flying ones.
So why do it?
Because I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Because it is my way of taking in the world, exploring it, and making sense of it.
Because even with the middlin’ to low moments it still beats any other job I’ve ever attempted.
Because almost always the love reignites at the end once I’ve put in the time and effort it requires—only now it no longer resembles a fleeting infatuation. It is a full-bodied love, one that is far more satisfying than its predecessor.
Because deep in the core of me I am a writer.
Because love isn’t really love at all until you’ve had to fight for it.

November 2, 2011

Sorry I've Strayed...

Poor, poor blog. I've neglected you for months now. Have you missed me? I have been giving all of my love and attention to my manuscript, I admit it. In my defense, this manuscript is rather sexy, all gussied up with my best plot work to date, but that's no reason for me to leave you hanging like this, blog. Sorry. Forgive me?

I have learned something valuable as a fledgling novelist recently. I've learned that balancing my online presence, life, family, friends and writing is tricky. Sometimes I have tunnel vision with my WIP and I can't see anything else. I don't call friends, I don't email, or facebook, or tweet or blog. I forget people's birthdays, forget laundry, regular meal times...and yes, sometimes even basic hygiene--keep this one to yourself;)

But total isolation can drive you crazy...Stephen King's Shining taught me that a long time ago-I'd just sort of forgotten. I need to remember that all my best writing ideas come from my interactions with the wider world.

In other words, blog, I have to remember that without regular showers, even the best of us start to stink:)

Soo, in honor of my newfound quest for balance, I hearby vow to blog at least twice weekly....that goes for showers too.

****My showering (or lack thereof) has been highly exaggerated in this blog-a writerly thang, just so you know.

August 30, 2011

Book Review: Possess by Gretchen McNeil

I must admit, I was intrigued by the premise of this book. I'd heard around the writing block that arcs of it went quickly at Book Expo and that there was a lot of buzz about it. So, this weekend, after reading an adult vampire novel, I decided to continue with the dark and twisty theme and read Possess next. And I'm so glad I did. I read it in one day-not one sitting, although I would have if not for my small people and their ever long list of wants and needs. It was a fast read with a strong YA voice and a plot that successfully mixed mystery, horror and romance. Right down my proverbial alley. The biggest plus of all was that it managed to be creepy, but not over the top scary, so I didn't terrorize my hubbie afterwards with crazy nightmares.

In a nutshell the book is about a girl with the ability to excorcise demons. Her name is Bridget and she discovered her special abilities not long after her father seemingly dies at the hands of a mental patient he was evaluating. She begins training with a priest at her Catholic school, learning his five rules of banishments(what he calls exorcisms), which is a good thing because cases of possession are cropping up all over town and Bridget is their best hope for release. But Bridget isn't sure she wants this new ability of hers or the addictive rush of power and exhilaration she feels while banishing the demons. She isn't sure she wants to know why she's so connected to the dark side. Bridget has to find a way to come to terms with her powers and figure out why the town is becoming overrun with evil before that evil comes after her and the ones she loves.

This book was wholly original in how it presented the whole topic of exorcims while still maintaining the same foggy eeriness of the stories that came before it, like The Exorcist. I liked how real and genuine Bridget seemed, how confilicted she was about what she could do, and how she managed to be both kick butt and girlishly vulerable at the same time. Clear an afternoon sometime soon and spend a little time in her world...just lock away any china dolls you may have first...and carry a crucifix, just in case.

August 28, 2011

Writing Full Time: Week One

Okay, so my youngest started kindergarten last week. Which means I now have about six hours of time in the day to myself. SIX HOURS!!! It's like winning the time lottery. I had to literally cover my mouth as I left the school last Monday to keep my maniacal giggles under wraps. I've been waiting for this week for the past two years-ever since I started seriously writing. I've been plotting and planning each of these daily hours for so long that now that they are actually here in front of me, I'm practically drunk on all the possiblilities. My goal is to write at least two books this year and to learn as much as I can about the writing process. I want to make giant strides, perfect my craft. GET PUBLISHED. There is so much that I want to accomplish. Part of me is exhilarated...but part of me is scared to death. After all, my hubbie is making sacrifices so that I can do this-he's working lots of hours-two jobs, in fact, while I work one-that doesn't even pay. And I want to make his sacrifice worthwhile. I want to manage to get paid enough so that he can focus on only one job and let the other one go. I want him to be able to have the time to pursue his small business dream while I help support us too. But writing novels is shaky business...there are no guarrantees and it terrifies me. So this year is my equivalent of jumping off a cliff and trying to land in a very small, very shallow wading pool already crowded with other authors. I'm doing everything I can to land well, including praying. My eyes are glued to that little circle of water, my arms outstretched, my heart and mind-open. Wish me luck:)

August 16, 2011

Write On Conference: Day One-Heavy on the awesome!

I think my contacts must be fused to my eyeballs right now. I've just spent almost the entire day glued to my computer screen soaking in the Write On Conference. My brain is so full it feels like one of those super soaker buckets at a water park right before it tips over. There were so many good tips, comments, writing samples, etc. I especially enjoyed Jessica Sinsheimer's live forum event. She answered questions about the querying process and all things agenty-live-for hours!  It made it so much easier to get a handle on what her preferences might be and what she's looking for.

If you haven't checked http://www.writeoncon.com/ out yet, you should in the next two days. So many great events are planned. Even if you just go to check out what other writers are working on it'll be well worth your time. It's a great way to see what's already out there, what's maybe overdone, what's a little generic, and what's completely brilliant. It's like gettting a peek at an agent's slush pile. Invaluable, really.



August 15, 2011

Gearing Up For the Write On Conference

In about five hours the completely free and very cool online writers conference at writeoncon.com will begin. I am more than a little excited and yes, a lot crazy since I stayed up this late the night before (1am to be precise). I've even taken time today to prepare my small people so that they will have lots to occupy themselves with while I soak up  all of the awesomeness that is this year's conference.

Stash of rented kiddie movies: check.
Assortment of healthy snacks: check.
Assortment of unhealthy snacks for later when everyone gets restless: check.
Emergency box of crafts: double check.
Last ditch manicure bribe for both of them during first downtime from conference: you betcha!

Now here's hoping that it's all enough.

August 5, 2011

Key Largo, Montego...and Shark Attacks

It's official. Summer time has taken over here as evidenced by my total lack of blog posts lately. I am knee deep in water and children and way more than shoulder high in sunshine. What I'm not immersed in at the moment is my writing. I'm trying not to freak out...although every other minute my body shudders with the aftershocks of my decision to slack.

The thing is, this is the last summer before both kids are in school. The last few weeks I'll have a "baby" in the house before we all go our seperate ways for six-eight hours a day. I'm feeling the need to savor it, to drink in the small stuff and pack as many cool experiences in as I can so that the summer will be as memorable for my children as it is for me. So when we went down to Miami recently, I spent one night checking out the This Is Teen Event and the rest of the time gallavanting with the family. We took an airboat ride, held a rooster, ate at the pinkest restaurant ever, and took a spontaneous trip to Key Largo...where my children got to see a fight first hand when two guys near our dinner table swapped testosterone-laden insults and one threw a chair over to go after the other guy. Who needs action movies when you have drunk idiots with thong wearing girlfriends?  Unforgettable summer memories? Check and check.

And just today I spent the better part of the morning watching Soul Surfer with both girls. Now as I write this they are playing with surfboards that they made out of styrofoam in the bathroom sink. Their Littlest Pet Shop figurines are undergoing multiple shark attacks and my oldest is using tabasco in the water to simulate the blood. As gross as this may sound, they are having the time of their lives. So the summer memories may be a little weird and slightly twisted? Aren't all family memories at least a little bit that way? What I know with a hundred percent certainty is that we used this summer to go out and live a little. We saw things we wanted to...and things we didn't, but both have changed our perspectives just a little and now I have a richer well, a deeper source for my stories. So even though I haven't written every day, my writing will ultimately be better once I pick the pen up again in the coming weeks. Part of being a writer is soaking up the world around us and that's what I've been doing. And I wouldn't change a thing.

July 19, 2011

Random Thoughts on Writing From the Roller Rink

Yesterday I took my two daughters to the rollerskating rink for the first time. They had never been on skates before and there was about a fifteen year gap for me since I had. We were all pretty shaky and spent the majority of our time hugging the walls and wobbling across the floor-that is when we weren't flat on our backs! My youngest became frustrated after a few minutes because suddenly this very exciting sounding activity was starting to feel a lot like work. She sat in the middle of the floor. letting all the other skaters flow past her and cried.

Looking back on it now, it occurs to me that learning how to roller skate is a lot like writing a novel and trying to get published. At first, the whole thing seems exciting, a great creative adventure. You picture yourself gliding through a rough draft, polishing it with speed, each step a little challenging, but mostly thrilling and above all fun. But then you dive into the rough draft and find that it takes days just to get a few pages down. You stumble and fall more than you glide and your butt and your head hurt from all the abuse the both of them have taken. All around you more accomplished writers are speeding along, wind in their hair, smiles on their faces doing tricks you didn't even know were possible. And it all seems incredibly hard. This is the point where you want to plop down on the floor and cry, your confidence not only shaken, but obliterated. You want to give up. You want to say that maybe it just isn't for you, maybe the people who actually manage to balance on both feet and move forward have some special quality that you are sadly lacking. You are right where my daughter was yesterday, on the verge of giving up.

You have to ask yourself the same question my daughter asked: Is it worth it? Because if it is, then you're in exactly the right place. You can't learn to roll along until you've fallen on your face a few times. Gliding in writing or skating isn't natural, it's learned. Sure, some people pick up the basics quicker and stop falling faster, but does it really matter if the end result is the same? You can't control how long it takes you to make it all the way around the rink without falling, but you can control your ability to get back up after a fall, to keep going in spite of what others are doing. And let's face it, once you do find your balance it does get a little easier. You don't have to hold onto the wall as much. You start picking up your pace and trying out some tricks of your own. And when the breeze finally hits your face, it isn't a surprise, it's a cool reward for all the effort you've put forth.

My daughter got up and kept trying. By the end of the two hours we spent there she was holding the wall just a little less. She still has a long way to go, but she doesn't seem to care. She figured out that she wants to learn to glide and now she won't settle for anything less. In fact, we will be back on the rink next week. So what about you? Do you want to glide or not?

July 15, 2011

This Is Teen Event, Coral Gables, Florida

Next week I will be dragging my entire family down to Miami for the This Is Teen event with Libba Bray, Maggie Stiefvater, and Meg Cabot, yay! So excited that they will be within a five hour radius of my house. Which gives me a week to think of some good questions to ask them about all things booky.

I'm just hoping I can curb my usual compulsion to say something embarrassing and stupid...like I did to Dennis Lehane when he did a reading at the Writer's in Paradise conference and I told him my friend and I were the desperate housewives of our suburb--I meant desperate to write, but from the look on his face I think he thought I meant we were desperate for something else entirely:)

July 6, 2011

Stuck in the sticky middle of the story. Aaargh!

I am soooo stuck right now. I know what direction my story is going, but can't seem to get what's in my head on paper. And every minute that ticks by makes me crazier.

I went to Barnes and Noble last night to try and escape the three stooges-style fighting going on between my two little people. Okay, they weren't poking each other in the eyes, but the intent was there...and guess what? I ended up at a table way too close to another tiny person being quizzed by her very loud mother on what a cow says. Which I think isn't much more than moo, but it kept them occuppied for quite some time.

I couldn't concentrate and my pen didn't move much. I ended up in the YA section swaying slightly and muttering to myself. Which I'm sure did wonders for my already non-existent street cred with the eighteen and under set.

Now here I am again with my own personal deadline looming on the horizon and a growing stack of backlogged chapters...and I'm blogging instead of writing. Butt's in chair, but chair has taken a serious detour.

I'm hoping this is that weird period where my ideas need to cook crock pot-style, but still I worry, like every other time that this happens, that I've finally hit my dry spell, the last drop in my creative well. Sounds crazy, but I can't keep from having a mini break down. So what to do? One of two things: eat chocolate and wallow or eat chocolate and write anyway. How bad is it? Let's take a look at the chocolate scale and see.

Chocolate Scale:

A handful of M&M's =  mild, once I sit somewhere quiet the words will come.

1 s'more made white trash-style (style seems to be a word I'm in love with tonight) in the microwave = I'll struggle for a few days, but by the end of the week I'll be back on track.

1-2 (yes, I said 2--it doesn't happen often, so calm down, people) melted Hershey bars-with sliced banana, marshmallows and strawberries sprinkled with powdered sugar = possible derailment, definite 5 pound weight gain and complete mini-breakdown where I ask everyone I'm close to if they think I'll make it someday-sob!

Right now I think I'm headed for s'moresville, but only because I don't have any Hershey bars. My s'more will have to be comprised of chocolate chips tonight-desperate, right? I'll try writing through the pain. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping the writing might morph from bad to good sometime during this excercise...okay, I'm not crossing my fingers at this exact moment 'cause then I'd be elbow typing and that would just take forever, but definitely after this. We'll see what happens. Putting Hershey bars on the grocery list just in case, though.

June 25, 2011

Small Victories

I was on Janet Reid's website today and noticed that I actually made it into the fifteen finalists for a little contest she had on her site. For those of you who don't frequent her site (she's the agent responsible for Query Shark). Once in awhile she runs a contest where she throws out a few words you must use in a flash, flash fiction piece (100 words or fewer) for various prizes. I've only entered twice, this was the second time and was amazed to see my little 'ole name right there in her blog post today. Now you may be wondering what the big deal is since I didn't exactly win. All I can say is sometimes little victories-like actually placing on the top end of some 82 entries-are all a struggling writer like me needs to keep on truckin'. After all, writing can be lonely, frustrating, doubt-inspiring, and insecurity-laden. Any recognition of my skills-big or small give me a little boost and keep my butt in that chair that much longer. I may not be agented or published yet, but I'm on my way.

June 14, 2011

Sleep is for Wussies

Sometimes I wish I were a coffee drinker. But unfortunately, I hate all hot liquids-unless I have a cold or it's like 30 below zero outside. So instead of coffee, I am guzzling the Coke Zeros and iced teas and trying to maintain my summer schedule. But so far, it isn't helping.

My kids are home all day everyday now and since we have a limited budget-see my previous post on my plan to write full time from now on and my total lack of income for almost a decade (stay at home mom pay is nil)  and you know how tight that budget is. Camps are out of the question. So it's me and the small people all day and all of my writing is done in the wee hours of the morning-wait, I mean night-or maybe technically it is morning...see what I mean about being tired?  I am dragging booty and since mine is seriously large after years of not working out and the whole butt in chair thing--I am tired, like fall over on my feet tired, which puts me at serious risk-the small people might have the opportunity to tie me up Gulliver-style and raid the pantry for all things sugary. Not a good thing considering the baseline energy level of my brood without the sweet stuff.

And it won't get better for months. Twelve weeks to be exact, but who's counting? And I really, really love my new story-like can't wait to finish it because I want to see how it ends up. So I have put myself on a schedule, darn it and I feel like I might literally explode cartoon character style if I don't meet the deadline I've set. I mean what if someone else is writing something scarily similar right now and beats me to the query stage? What if by the time I finally finish the rough and revise, the idea has lost it's moment of possible trendiness? On some level I know that these are sort of irrational fears, but still I can't stop feeling like every minute I'm not writing is paramount to slacking.

So, coffee...and maybe a few Red Bulls... hopefully both will be looking good in a few more days, 'cause otherwise I just might be sunk.

May 11, 2011

How Badly Do I Want to Write Full Time?

Let me just say that come this fall I thought I would be back in the classroom. I have been a stay at home mom for almost a decade, but before that I was a fifth grade teacher. I always assumed I'd go back, never really questioned it...that is until about three years ago when I realized that I had been working with children for more than half my life already and I was just done-I'd given all I could give in the daily care and feeding of small people department and I really couldn't imagine doing it anymore--with the exception of taking care of my own children, which I am absolutely up for still:)  Basically, I just woke up and realized that I wanted to write, that I needed to write and that most of what drew me to teaching dealt with words and writing somehow. But we all know how difficult it is to make writing your full time occupation-we can love it, but unless you're publishing pretty regularly and successfully, it doesn't pay the bills. So it becomes a hobby for most of us, a side line thing to do after the full time job that does pay the bills.

My fear though, is that if this becomes a part-time thing that I do after my full time job and after I spend time with my family, will I ever get it off the ground the way I need to to see my story in print? So hubby and I are trying something radical-at least for a couple of planners like us. We are giving me another year-the third in my quest for publication-to try and write something excellent enough to nab me an agent. I will write full time for the first time and see what happens. The only snafu in this plan is that we could really use some extra income.  So, in order to best facilitate my plan, I will be helping my hubby with his second job, the one he hopes to make full time so he can slow down and enjoy life-for one, because he needs to build it up and for two because doing it will net me more income than waitressing or any of the other part time jobs I was considering.

So what type of family business does my hubby have you may ask? I can tell you it involves a uniform, a truck full of chemicals and a very weapony looking backpack. In short, I will be a bug lady. No, I won't be studying them, I will be exterminating them.  Which is funny really since I have an almost pathological fear of all things jumpy, leggy, or stingy. So next year a few days a week, I will strap on a pack full of pesticides and shoot to kill...and then try not to squeal or run or make my really ugly ewwww! face...because somehow I think that might not look too professional.  So now I think this blog might just be about my adventures in bugs and words. That's how badly I want to make this writing thing work!

May 7, 2011

Getting Real

Okay, I think maybe I have been going about this blog thing all wrong. I'm thinking now that if/when I get published someday, anyone checking out this blog will want to know what I want to know when I investigate a writer's blog, which is: what did you do each and everyday that somehow led to you getting published? I want to know what a writer's reality is so I can compare it to mine, see if it feels similar. So in that spirit, I am changing things up and making my posts more personal.

So this week I managed to write out the first fifty pages of my shiny new WIP only to realize that I am falling into familiar patterns and the book is going quiet on me. I'm not sure why I do this, I just know that I do. The plot grinds to a halt, I start having my characters gloss over their feelings and instead spend inordinate amounts of time having them dissect stuff that in the larger scheme of things, means nothing. Then I get all wrapped up in my own ability to describe something, in making it uber clever and my story goes down the toilet-where incidentally in it's current form, it belong (all except Chapter One which is really good if I do say so myself).

And I found all of this out when one of my crit partners basically told me that chapter one was really awesome and she was super excited to read chapter two--until she actually read chapter two. It was long and boring were her primary comments and I left group trying to justify why chapter two was the way it was to myself, to my mother (who I called like a little baby to whine), and to my husband.

I fumed and sank into a bowl of chips and salsa, watched The Vampire Diaries and basically allowed myself a little self-pity time. But then that night I started thinking seriously about her comments, and guess what? She was absolutely right...and now I know what my problem is, I give my characters too many breathers-time to adjust to their conflicts, to feel better about everything or at least less in peril instead of hitting them with whammy after whammy and pushing them to act on the fly, to think while they are reacting. The crazy thing is that this is basic stuff-I've read advice about this how many times, so why can't I seem to internalize it?

And the only answer I can come up with is, I don't know. Maybe I couldn't see it until I was ready, maybe I needed to internalize other writer lessons first. Who knows? It's frustrating and overwhelming sometimes how much there is to learn about writing well and how many balls have to stay spinning in the air to make a story great. It's a testament to how truly gifted good writers are because they make it look attainable, easy almost and it is anything but.

So now I am redirecting myself and moving forward with a clearer idea of where my story needs to go and what should happen in Chapter Two. Here's hoping that I've had a break through and the writing I do this week will live up to the story playing out in my head because the idea is good and I think if I can do it justice, it could be "the one" that puts me over the top and gets me published.

So no more chips and salsa, 'cause my pants are already tighter and lots more writing. Gulp.

April 25, 2011

Finding Time to Write

 I thought I might write about finding time to write today since I always hear lots of writers lament about not having any time to write. I find that this is a pretty easy subject to tackle. If you are passionate enough about writing you will create spaces in your schedule where you can put pen to paper. If you aren't serious enough, it'll never happen.

 Everyone thinks that their schedule is too full. It just comes down to how badly you want it. I have found that I have to write, just like some people have to run or paint or play music. I am a happier person when I make the time-so I do. I will postpone cleaning the house, making a meal, doing laundry-most anything that isn't urgent and doesn't affect my family in a bad way to write. And they are glad that I do because it makes me easier to live with.

There are always things that you can weed out of your schedule. Television is probably the easiest--it is like a black hole that literally pulls all of your time and energy away. Record the shows you absolutely can't miss and give up the rest. You won't even miss them, trust me. The great thing about writing is that you are in absolute control of when you do it and how often. There is no magical time frame, no set amount that needs to get accomplished.

Be passionate about writing and you won't have this issue at all. If you're passionate you'll have more of a problem finding time for everything else.

April 20, 2011

College

I had a critique partner of mine tell me just the other day that my first manuscript (which has been revised within an inch of its life, by the way...for almost two years--but who's counting) is probably not very commercial. And this particular person has enough experience to know. Very shortly after I got some less direct, but equally strong critique from two other partners who had some of the very same concerns she did-- which pretty much confirms that the fate of this story is not good right now. And that's some harsh reality to get hit with all at once. But God bless 'em all, because their honesty is just as important to my writing as the actual writing itself and without them I would be failing a lot more often and more spectacularly. So if any of you lovely ladies happen to read this: thanks again for kicking my butt:)

Still, about now you're probably thinking that I'm writing this from underneath my desk since that type of tough love is difficult to swallow--although it almost always goes down a little easier when you chase it with a little Ben and Jerry's cookie dough ice cream;) But I'm not. You know why? Cause they are absolutely right. It is quiet and slow paced and not very original-not exactly ready for primetime. I knew this somewhere deep within, they only confirmed what I already suspected.

So what am I doing about it? I'm puttting on my big girl writing panties and I'm starting the next manuscript. I'm accepting that for now that first manuscript is the physical representation of my education in writing. It was my MFA program. It taught me how to revise, it taught me how to find my voice and plot. It taught me what I might be passionate about writing and what just might be me emulating someone else--there's a big difference. Even though this first baby isn't going to bring in so much as a trickle of agents interested in representing it, it is already priceless. I learned all of the what not to do's and they are way harder to internalize sometimes than the what to do's.

I say all of this because (for me and for all of us) what will hopefully make the difference between hoping to get published and actually being published  is how I/we handle the steep learning curve--because that's what rejection is--learning. When I manage to get it right and the plot, pacing, character development, and description lessons I've learned finally become fused to my brain I believe that the rest will just naturally follow--not huge fame and wealth, but agents and publishing (although I'm sure I wouldn't run screaming from a big pile of money and an interview with Oprah). My ability to see the lesson in the critique is what will ultimately make me a true writer and that was really the most important goal all along.

So I say embrace your mistakes, learn and move on 'cause in this business it's the only way to survive.

April 18, 2011

Self-Doubt

I was emailing back and forth with a friend this weekend and she mentioned being paralyzed with doubt about what to write next. I want to tell her that this passes or at least improves with time and lots of writing practice, but I don't think it does. I battle this monster each and every time I sit down to the computer and try to write a short story or a chapter in my latest manuscript or even a witty blogpost (which I find scariest of all)-which makes sense, right? After all I'm not a raving success as of yet-no agent or publisher to speak of. But the thing is I know some published authors who admit to sharing the same nagging feelings of "this is trash and no one will get it, much less like it". And there's just no cure for it, no magic totem or ritual that makes it go away. Self-doubt basically sits on all our shoulders and whispers in our ears all the time about how bad our collection of words are.

So I have no encouraging strategies or secrets of success to share that have helped me stay parked in my office chair day after day for hours on end in the face of  Mr. Doubt (and sometimes his brother rejection). It just comes down to tenacity. You have to refuse to stop even though your arms are weighed down under the overwhelming strain of his considerable weight. You ignore him, big and obnoxious as he may be and eventually he shrinks until he's more Tweety bird-sized than Pterodactyl.

I think we all just have to give ourselves permission to simply put words on paper and see what happens. Perfection isn't possible and good doesn't happen without a truck load of revising, so that first run of thoughts on paper should be free of restraint. Give yourself permission to write outrageously, make mistakes often-you won't ever get better if you don't run headlong into your writing and leave self-doubt wallowing in your dust.

April 13, 2011

New Story Love

I am right smack in the middle of starting my second novel and it is the best place to be! I had forgotten the excitement of fresh words and ideas. My first novel was in revision a long, long time-and probably will return there if it doesn't attract any agent interest. I had sort of forgotten what it was like to be at the stage where the bones of the story are connecting in my head and I have no clear picture of what kind of animal that they'll form by the end, just a ballpark idea of what species it might be. It's exciting and terrifying and exhilarating. It is like the very first stages of a love affair when the other person is irresistably attractive and more than a little bit mysterious. I can't stop thinking about it, I'm throwing myself into researching and everything about my day feels a little brighter. I'm convinced it's true love.

It is awesome.

I am probably enjoying it more this time, too. Last time I was so insecure about my own writing ability and sense of plot that I fretted more than I swooned. But this time I know I can do it because I've already done it once before. I can recognize this fleeting stage for what it is and I'm savoring it. Soon I'll misstep somewhere in the middle and sink into plotting and character quicksand. Then I will moan and wail and eat too much cookie dough icecream until some random line of thought snakes across the surface of my story sand like a thick vine, just strong enough to hold onto so I can pull myself out.

After that, I will have a brief period of renewed passion until I finish the rough draft. but the revising process will slowly leech that away until I am so numb to the power of my own words that I will start to doubt that I had love for the story in the first place.

SO I am enjoying this courtship period to the fullest because I know what's next and this, my friends, is the best part.

April 10, 2011

And so it begins...

I am officially a blogger thanks to my tirelessly supportive husband who stayed up late with me (even though he was sick) to get this bad boy up and running. Without his help, I would still be swaying in front of the monitor with my fingers poised over the keys afraid to touch anything. Now here I am, completely official...and totally stymied about what to write.  So maybe I'll begin by talking about what made me want to start writing in the first place.

I wasn't one of those people who always knew that they wanted to be a writer.  I think on some level writing was always a part of me, lurking in the background of my life waiting to be discovered, but I didn't take the time to look until two years ago.  I guess that makes me a late bloomer! Still, there were clues...like my addiction to playing pretend by myself in my room with the door shut.  I would pretend that my baby dolls were orphans left on my doorstep to be cared for by me, an extremely capable five year old. I could tell no one of their existence since there were any number of bad guys after them.Somehow I had to keep them alive because the fate of the world rested squarely in their tiny rubber hands-they were destined to be superheroes. 

 And later when most kids were starting to give up on toys in favor of spin the bottle and other boy-girl games, I was still putting Barbies on a deserted island(coffee table) in Kleneex dresses that I would gradually rip to shreds Survivor-style while they struggled to find their way back to the Barbie townhouse. 

I have always been addicted to books and spend most of my nights swallowing novels whole.  I even had several teachers throughout the years urge me to try and write more seriously...so it should have been obvious that writing was for me, but I am apparently oblivious to obvious. I've been a waitress, a doll maker and a teacher, and a stay at home mom since high school, but I only ever wrote in my journal.  What finally woke me up from my non-writing stupor was having my two beautiful daughters.  They made my life complete and I love them more than I can say, but somewhere between my first year home and the sixth one, they sucked the intellectual life out of me.  The only conversations I had were about diapers and colds and naps-for years. It was enough to force my writer's voice from the shadows and soon I couldn't contain all the sentences I needed to write, all the stuff I needed to say...I ran to paper and pencil and have been writing ever since.

So why write young adult novels?  Because they are about characters going through some of the biggest changes of their lives and it's fun to go back and live those changes through my character's eyes.  I write fantasy because I have always preferred reading it--not necessarily high fantasy-just magical events or characters sprinkled into the real world-enough fantasy to escape into. I also had such a strong connection to books at that stage of my life and I can think of nothing better than writing a book that will resonate with someone the same way.

So now you know a little something about me, if you somehow managed to stumble on this blog, let me know your story. I'd love to hear it!