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I must say for me, revision is much easier than facing the blank page during the draft phase. However, it can be just as frustrating. Especially when you know what you want to convey but the words don’t want to cooperate with you.
Know that feeling?
*Nod your head*
I think sometimes when we read “finished” work — work that seems so “effortless” that we can forget the hours and energy it takes to make a novel’s world breathe life. When the words disappear into your mind and create emotions and images. It’s magic because you don’t even see the words, you see the novel’s world instead. Alive and fascinating.
News flash: This doesn’t happen the first time out the gate, honey. :)
Revision is where you create the magic.
This is why during my writing retreat, I was so happy to gather ideas and suggestions to make my novel stronger — especially the ending. I’m still torn about what to do but I’m getting closer to my final decision.
One of the craft books I took with me was The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. This fabulous book is dog-eared with several underlined passages. I just love this book. And I’m very excited that The Plot Whisperer Workbook is coming out in August.
Last night, I was reading some of my Plot Whisperer notes and came across this gem from the author:
“Appreciate that the right words do not always come out the first time. You cannot always convey what you imagine for your story the first, second, third, or even fourth try. Writing is a process. Get the words down. Later you can go back and be brilliant.”
So for those of you who are the revision phase like me, rejoice! Your magic is happening right now. You are in the process of being brilliant. Keep revising! :)
Hawaii is so gorgeous and sunny. So glad that I’m here on vacation and taking time out to relax. So needed for me.
I’m also focusing back on the novel as well. I hope to get some good stuff done down here. So far so good!
If you want to see any Hawaiian highilights and pictures, you can follow me (KarenMusings) on Twitter or Instagram.
I met with some lovely writer friends this past weekend and we had a interesting conversation.
One of my friends is published and working on her second book, another just sold a book, and then there’s me — revising and getting ready for submission. We talked about our work styles, stress, and just general writing habits.
Writer Friend #1: How many books do you think you can write?
Me: Hard to say. Are you counting “drawer” books too?
Writer Friend #1: No, I mean books that you will submit. Revised and polished. I don’t think I have more than 3 or 4 more in me.
Writer Frind #2: Really? You would stop writing?
Writer Friend #1: I don’t know. I’m a slow writer so with this book out now, after the next four books, I could stop. I may want to move on to other things.
Me: I can’t say. I think I would always be working on something. Is there such a thing as a terminal number of books a writer can write?
Writer Friend #2: There is this thing called “Death.”
We all laughed but it got me thinking. Is there such a thing as a finite number of books for a writer? Do you have a number of books in your head that you plan to write and then stop? Or do you plan to keep writing until uh, the Reaper makes a visit?
This current novel project will be coming to a close this year *raises hand into a pump fist* and I’ll be thinking about how I want to tackle my next project.
When I wrote what I call my “drawer” novels, I always wrote them in secret and showed them to no one. At that time, I didn’t even tell anyone I was writing anything.
With the novel I wrote that helped secure my former agent, I was actually in a workshop format and I wrote that book chapter by chapter with the help of my writer mentor and critique partners.
This current novel project has been a mix of both. I wrote the first third (which now has been totally rewritten) in the same workshop format with the mentor and critique group but then most of this novel has been written on my own.
I must say that I find working on my own — at least until the novel is in a state of revision where I know what it’s about — has been very helpful for me. Every novel is different though.
The good points of working on a novel in a workshop or critique group is that if you’re going down the wrong path, you may be able to get back on track quicker but then working alone you can get to your story in a more organic way and really figure out what you want for your novel without any outside interference.
So writer friends, how do you work on your novel projects? Do you let people see your work in draft or revised form? Do wait until it’s ready for a beta read? Do you find that it’s helpful or harmful to show your work before you submit?
Would love to hear how other writers do this.
Have you noticed that when you are working on different novel projects that you tend to have a recurring character type? I’ve noticed this in some of my favorite authors and their work as well.
It doesn’t mean that you’re writing the same character over and over again — it’s more of a variation — almost like voice in a way — and for me, it says a lot about the influence certain people have in the author’s life.
Something I’ve noticed as far as recurring character types in my work is the grandmother character. I was very blessed growing up because I had two grandmothers and two great-grandmothers. They were all different types. Nettie was mean and could cut you in half with her words. Florence was a romantic and introduced me to The Young and the Restless, Ruby was stylish and always “runway ready” in her appearance, and Elnora was loving and taught me how to make the perfect biscuit.
Elnora is a big influence on the grandmother character in my current novel. Here she is in Atlantic City circa 1980′s posing at the beach:
Growing up, Elnora or “Moya” — a childhood nickname that stuck when I couldn’t pronounce her name right — was a second mother to me. She taught me a lot of country/farm life things like how to season a cast iron skillet, how to shell butter beans without getting callouses, how to make pretty curtains out of bedsheets — but most of all she taught me about unconditional love. Even in college, I would go back to Moya’s house because it gave me all the safety and peace I needed.
I now can see how this seed of influence help grow the relationship between the main character and her grandmother in my current novel.
You can even use your bad experiences with certain people as foundations for great characters. For instance, my mean great-grandmother Nettie? I think a character is already brewing up in her honor in my next novel project. Ha, ha.
Do you have a character type that recurs in your novel projects? Are they based on a combination of real people who had a great affect on your life?
First, I owe you an apology. Over the last couple of months, I know that we haven’t spent much quality time together. I’ve been so busy at work and I’m sorry if you felt that I was neglecting you.
I really appreciate your patience. I know that we’ve talked about our future and exciting plans. I haven’t forgotten. Sometimes it’s the only thing that has kept me going over these last few crazy weeks. Please know that you’ve been close in my heart all this time.
I’m excited about our upcoming vacation together. My hope for us is that we can rekindle the creativity and passion again in Hawaii. I look forward to spending quality time with you on the beach in the shade of palm trees. You will have the full attention you deserve and I will listen to you and we can move forward.
I want you to know that I haven’t given up on us and please know that you are a very important part of my life.
If you could write a letter to your novel, what would you say?
I was talking to one of my non-writer friends and he asked me about my book. I told them I was still on track to finish it this year and then of course, he asked that question most writers get:
“So, what is it about?”
I always answer the same way I usually do, “It’s a novel about fate vs. free will.”
My friend then asked, “That’s it? You’re not gonna go into detail about it? You afraid that I’m gonna steal your idea?”
This got me thinking. I rarely share the in-depth details of my novel with other writers unless they are in my critique group or a good writer friend. I wondered why is. Could it be that I am subconsciously protecting myself from idea theft?
Although I haven’t seen it personally, I have heard stories of writers taking ideas that they’ve heard from other writers. And then there is the case of multiple discovery I remember reading about in a New Yorker article written by Malcolm Gladwell.
For me, I just come from a place where I feel that until I’m finished with a project and I know fully what it’s about that I just keep it simple and general.
What about you writer friends: Do you share what your work is about? Or do you keep it close to wraps? Do you think idea theft exists or do you believe that there is room for the same story written by different authors?
Recently, I went to go see the movie The Help. I haven’t yet read the book but I had been intrigued about the author’s story and wrote a blog post about her path to publication.
Of course seeing this movie brought back memories of my own. My grandmother worked as a domestic most of her life. Growing up working-class, I often went with her to help clean houses as well the town’s post office and the Methodist church. One of the things I precisely remember about these times were that we were never acknowledged as anything more than the help. We were in many ways invisible.
Maybe this is the reason that now whenever I see “the help” in places — like hotels, malls, and even in my office building, I tend to look these people in the eye and smile. I try to acknowledge who they are and let them know that I do see them.
I’ve noticed this is also a recurring theme in my novels. I tend to write about the people who are looking from the outside, trying to fit in, trying to be seen.
I think as writers we tend to put certain aspects into our characters — either consciously or subconsciously. The things that have impacted our lives in both negative and positive ways. This is one of the reasons we write. To give a voice to things that matter to us.
Right now, I’m struggling not to freak out because of all the things that I have to do in these last 3 months of the year. As some of you already know, I work in software development and sometimes we tend to have “shades of crazy” schedules.
This may be one of the primary reasons that my current novel project has had its stalls but I try to put things in perspective. It is all about balance and reality — because I have to earn an living first.
Last night after finishing a 12-hour stint I felt a little resentful because once again my “day job” was taking valuable time away from my manuscript. But then I had to remember to put things in perspective. I may not be able to work on my writing as much as I would like but I shouldn’t throw in the towel.
I should keep writing. Even if it’s only for a few minutes in small packets of time. Or only on the weekends.
Usually when I start feeling like this, I listen to one of my favorite songs “Keep Looking” by Sade. Many times, this song has given me the “umph” to not give up.
I love this particular lyric:
It’s no use sitting down
Don’t walk ’round with a frown
Oh no, keep looking
It’s no use sitting around
With your head in your hands
Oh no, keep looking
So no matter what your struggle is — whether it be something in your novel project or in your life — always remember to keep looking and the solution and/or answer always makes itself known.
And keep writing! :)
Sometimes I wonder how things would be for us as writers if we were not so connected…
Don’t get me wrong, I love the community of writers. Some of you I have never met in person but I feel like I know you anyway. *waves* But sometimes, maybe all this networking and communicating — and yes — even supporting can have adverse side effects.
- Like when other writers frown upon the subject matter of your writing because it does not talk about the “struggles of your — insert your choice here — race, gender, sexual orientation, family origin, or class.”
- Or when you read advice on how to build an author platform or blog and realize you are “doing it all wrong.”
- Maybe even when you’re told that you shouldn’t work on your current novel because it’s too similar to what’s already out there and it’ll be “too late” when you’re done.
- Worse, when you feel that compared to others you should be so much farther in your writing — and wonder if you should try what they’re doing to see if it’ll help you move “faster.”
These are just are few of mine. Yours may be different or similar.
But at the end of the day, there is a pressing need to always ask this very important question:
“What do I want to do?”
Sit still long enough and you’ll know the answer.
Usually for me, when I get that icky feeling in my stomach, like after eating a really big burrito, I know I’m probably doing something that is *not* from a place of authenticity. Because when you’re doing what you want, it feels good all the way to your core. When you’re doing what you think you *should* want, that’s when salsa hits the fan.
So ask that question when you feel pressure or uncertainty — in writing and in life. Is this something I want to do? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.
Life is much too short.
Do what you want to do.
So this past weekend when I was bookstore browsing, I
eavesdropped overhead an interesting conversation between two teen girls.
One of the girls reminded me a lot of myself at that age. As you know from last week’s post — I was all about the scary and the creepy but also about mysterious and quirky too. When I was
stalking observing them, I noticed that the girl had Life as We Knew It, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Looking For Alaska cradled in her arms — definitely an interesting mix.
The girls were talking about books that they wanted to read but were not on the shelves. These were also very smart and savvy readers too — I think we can forget sometimes as writers. I loved hearing about the things that they liked and didn’t like on the shelves.
sneaked walked away with that teen girl in the back of my mind. As I worked on my novel project yesterday, I thought about her again. Now I like to think of her as my mini-audience of sorts — a reader archetype.
The truth is that our books will not be liked by everyone. But if you know your audience, you will at least find the people who may be interested in your book. The first reader is the author — I’m from the camp that you should write what you also want to read — but it doesn’t hurt to have an idea of who else may share your tastes.
What about you writer friends: Do you know your audience? Do you have an idea of the type of reader who would like your book?
First off, I would like to send good luck to all of my writer friends who are participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I’m not doing it this year but I’ll cheer the rest of you on. 50K in 30 days. Whew. Makes me tired just thinking about it. :)
For the last few weeks, I’ve had a valid excuse to not work so much on my novel revision because of my day job craziness. But now that’s slowing down and I’m still finding other ways to avoid what needs to be done — scene rewrites, logic fixes, character mishaps.
It’s amazing how other tasks can seem so pressing. More pressing than sitting in front of the computer or blank page. Could there be any “pros” in procrastination? Any type of benefit?
Let’s look at some of the “pressing” tasks that I’ve completed:
- Reorganized my tupperware.
- Washed all the baseboards in the house.
- Changed my air filter and dusted out my vents.
- Cleaned and sealed my bathroom tile grout.
- Reorganized my closet and donated items to Goodwill.
This past weekend, I finished an epic procrastination task: I decided that I would redesign my blog.
The software geek in me really loved this. It was on my list for things to do in 2012, but why put off something for tomorrow when you can do it today — insert irony here — so for my RSS and email readers, take a looksy and let me know what you think.
It’s still in the tweaking stages. For those of you who need custom blog headers or other promotional material design such as bookmarks, writer friend Heather McCorkle has started CP Design that you should definitely check out.
But seriously, I need to start back work on the novel revisions. Maybe some of you NaNoWriMo writers can rub off on me. I need to regain my focus!
So how about you writer friends? Procrastinated lately? Do you get any “pros” out of it?
Okay so I’ve recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and now gearing up for the end of the year. With the winding down, I always reflect on my goals and the progress that I made.
I officially made 2011, a year of spaciousness. Ha, much easier said than done for sure but one thing I’m proud of is that I didn’t get stressed out about my novel progress or even worse compare myself to other writers — because we all know that’s a losing battle. Considering some of the things I’ve went through this year and the day job craziness, the fact that I’m still writing is a small miracle.
We still have a last hurrah for 2011: A good month to go and as you NanNo champions already know, a lot of writing can happen in 30 days.
The good news is that I will be finished with my novel by December 31st. The not so bad news is that I know in my heart that I will probably need another revision pass and some beta readers before I can start my submission process.
Still happy about my progress though thanks in part to Operation 50/50. My plot changed significantly in the last third of my novel and I had to totally rewrite it. This is the part that needs the most revision focus. But my all of my characters have deepened and my protagonist has evolved so much since January — she is a complicated creature and I love it. As a writer, I can’t ask for more.
As for 2012, it’s going to be an exciting year. I’ve got some exciting trips to Hawaii and Italy planned and I’m looking forward to starting the agent submission process. This will be my second time around and I’ve learned so much from my past experience. We’ll see! :)
So writer friends, what about you? Are you going to make your 2011 goals for your novel projects? Have you been thinking about 2012 and what you want to accomplish?
This past weekend I was reading some of my favorite blog posts and stumbled across this gem from Seth Godin. It speaks so truthfully and it was something that I needed to read again.
“We spend a lot of time organizing and then waiting for the system to pick us, approve of us and give us permission to do our work.
Feedback is important, selling is important, getting the market to recognize your offering and make a sale — all important. But there’s a difference between achieving your goals and realizing your work matters.”
How many times can validation lift us up and then tear us down?
Great comments from critique partners. Another rejection letter. A great book deal. One-star reviews. If you leave yourself open, you can be on an emotional roller-coaster and that’s not good for a creative life.
Yes, it’s important to get that validation for your work. It’s your passion. Your dream. But remember always that no one “allows” you to write. You can write regardless. Even with no validation at all. Which at times — let’s face it kids — has to happen anyway. When we’re creating our novel world, it’s a solo effort — something that must be done with no hand-holding.
So while you continue on your writing journey or just going through the journey of life, always try to remember this very important thing:
Validation from others is overrated.
This past Saturday, I was out with some “creative types” — some of us writers — and we were talking about negative criticism and how we should NOT take it personally. We all agreed that we should get a “tough skin” and just let the comments roll off our back. Blah, blah, blah.
But then a writer friend spoke up: “Why do we always say this when it comes to negative stuff? What about the positive stuff? Should we not listen to that? Ignore it too?”
We all agreed that the positive stuff does makes us feel good. It lets us know that maybe we’re on the right track. And it’s just so much easier to absorb than the negative stuff.
Then an artist friend said: “Maybe I’m just narcissistic then because how can I not take negative comments on something that I’ve worked on for years and not take it personally? It’s from me. I created it.”
We all pondered this question. Even though everyone says that negative comments should not be taken to heart, do we really take them personally anyway? Deep down into the subconscious and internalize them?
Another writer friend spoke up: “It doesn’t matter. We can take everything personally if we want. But we have to remember that the comments are coming from a source that has different experiences, views, and opinions. In the end, you have to create what you want and then put it out in the world. Let it resonate with the ones who love it and let it repel with the ones who hate it.”
I like this writer’s take on it. Not everyone is going to love your work. More than likely, it’ll be a few people who hate it. And those haters may write about it or even tell you. But lovers and haters of your work can be two extremes. In the end, you just have to put your novel out into the world.
So writer friends, do you take comments about your novel or WIP personally? Or do you only focus on what you want for you work?
One of the books that is on my TBR list this summer is Blood Red Road by Moira Young.
It’s a novel set in the future after the land has been ravaged and now mostly a wasteland of dust. The main character Saba is forced to go forth into the unknown world and search for her twin brother who was kidnapped.
I recently read some thoughts from the author about her journey to writing this book as well as some of her influences. This stood out for me:
“I didn’t plan this book. When I did, mainly it didn’t go according to plan, although sometimes it did. I found that characters did what they did and said what they said and waited, sometimes impatiently, while I wrote it down. But I did have to sit there at the table, at my computer, and write. Even if every word I wrote that day turned out to be a dud. I had to sit down and write. And once I’d finished the first draft, that was just the beginning. Only then did I really start to write the book.”
This is so true. Sometimes even a plot chick like myself cannot plan some of the things that happen while writing a novel. Ironically, it’s the unplanned novels that are the most riveting — for both the reader and the writer.
You can read the rest of what the author had to say about her novel here.
Writer friends, how you found that some of your best ideas come from being open and not sticking to the original plan for your novel?
Last Friday night I was excited to attend a book launch party for one of my dear writer friends Vicky Alvear Shecter who is the author of the Cleopatra’s Moon, a fabulous YA historical fiction novel.
Here is a picture from the party at the Little Shop of Stories bookstore where Vicky is holding the infamous Drag-Queen Cleo.
The novel focuses on Cleopatra Selene, the only daughter of the renowned queen of Egypt. Being a lover of all things historical, I loved the way that Vicky revealed facts within the prose. Where I really think she shines is how she fills in the blanks of history with her own take on what happened to Cleopatra Selene after the deaths of her parents and her turbulent stay in Rome. I also loved the theme of free will in the novel since this is one of the themes in my own novel project.
Vicky has been a writer friend for several years. We originally met as part of a critique/writing workshop. I always loved when it was Vicky’s turn to read because she always put interesting historical details in her writing — I still remember a piece about the domestication of cats in ancient Egypt. Vicky has always had a penchant for ancient history. She has also written two non-fiction books, Alexander The Great Rocks the World and Cleopatra Rules!
I still remember a day when we met at a coffee shop and talked about what we wanted to happen for our writing. For me, she is an writing inspiration. It is very inspiring to see a work go from idea to revision to sale to editorial revision and then on to publication. There is a LOT of work involved as we writers already know.
To see it happen for a writer friend is even better because there is a personal connection. So Vicky if you’re reading this post just know how proud that I am of you and I can’t wait for you to share more of your writing with the world! :)
How do you celebrate your writer friend success stories? How do your writer friends support you in your accomplishments?
I know a lot of times we think of writing as something to master and to be disciplined and grow in — blah, blah, blah. It can sometimes be the case where we just forget how much writing can matter to us in other ways.
Jordan Rosenfeld, who gave me the inspiration for 2011 to be the Year of Spaciousness, recently posted her 10 Reasons Why Writing Matters. My favorites from her list:
#9: Writing helps heal and process wounds and grief, clearing them out
#5: Writing connects you with others through blogging, writing groups, live readings, and self-publishing outlets like Scribd and Smashwords
#3: Writing hones your powers of observation, giving you a fuller experience of life
From my own perspective, writing matters to me because it allows me to share and empathize emotions through my characters, gives me a way to explore and create other worlds through my creativity, and most of all provides me an outlet to connect with others who have a passion for writing and reading novels.
What are some of the reasons writing matters to you?
And for those of you who are interested, the author/instructor is holding a contest based on her 10 reasons. Entries will be put into a drawing to win a free spot in any one of her forthcoming 1-week intensives in December.