draft 1


Currently listening to: Frozen Angels by Zoe Keating

Turned in my second submission this afternoon for my novel writing class. A total of 22 pages. Four chapters. A little short of the goal of 25, but close enough. The first 10 pages were a revision of what I submitted the first time. So, we’ll see if they read any better. I think I smoothed out the transitions which were the major complaint. And I think I’ve worked out the structure for the first part of the novel. Those chapters will open in the present, then flashback for the bulk of the chapter, & then come back to the present at the end of the chapter. Hopefully it’s not too confusing and works. I really hope it works. I really really really hope it works because I’ve grown attached to this structure. I don’t know if I could go back to a totally linear timeline. This structure lets me do so much more setting up of one of the key relationships.

As for the other 12-pages, all new stuff. Well, not entirely new. The plot movement is basically the same as the 1st draft, but there were a few unexpected twists this time around. I’ll have to see if it works out as I go forward.

So, now I wait for comments. And then it’s onto submission #3 in 3 weeks. I need to hit 50-pages for that one. I definitely can’t leave that to the last minute.

Off to twiddle my thumbs. Actually, I need to work on an assignment for the grant writing class I’m taking. A completely different kind of writing, & a tad less fun. But, a good skill to have.

Currently listening to: All Right by Sigur Ros

Today, a member of my writing group emailed me this article from Writer’s Digest by Elizabeth Sims:

Get Messy With Your First Draft

Sims writes about letting yourself be free and open when writing your first draft. Tell your control freak side to surrender. Just let go & write. Don’t worry about structure. Don’t worry about ideas that come out of nowhere or tangents that don’t quite fit, get them all down on paper regardless. Don’t judge your writing. If you do this, you’ll find your second draft to be an easier going because you will have more good stuff than you know what to do with.

I think I followed Sims advice to a certain extent. My control freak-structured-side & my creative-day dreamy-writer-side have been at war for years. So, I did worry about structure & I did over think a lot of things. But I did explore the tangents; & I think for the most part, I let whatever was floating around in my over active imagination come out. And what she says about having an easier going on the second draft because you’ll have more good stuff than you know what to do with, I have to say, it’s kind of true. Admittedly, I’m struggling with transitions, tense, & other issues, but I’ve also had moments where I’ve realized that it’s ok to kill a darling because there is something else that’s even better. Now, that’s kind of cool & helps restore my faith that I will, eventually, get this done. (more…)

Currently listening to: Climbing Up the Walls by Radiohead (I’m a little obsessed with this song these days.)

I’m proud of myself. I spent a good 3-4 hours writing. Actually, it was more revising than anything.

I don’t know how I had intended the writing of this 2nd draft to proceed. I don’t think I was planning to plow through from beginning to end with no stops in between like I did for draft 1. That technique worked great for getting the story down on paper & out of my head. I had to keep myself from over thinking as I wrote it just to get through it.

So, now on draft 2, I’m wondering what I was planning to do. I don’t think I was just going to plow through again, leaving holes & problems to be fixed on draft 3, but maybe I was. Maybe I was thinking that I just needed to get through a draft in 1st person from beginning to end to see if it worked. (more…)

Yesterday I spent sometime reading the little that I managed to write on my 2nd draft last month. I like some of it, but I feel like I’m about to fall off a cliff with it, or at least run head-on into a wall without braking. I don’t think I chose the right entry point this time around. My first draft runs chronologically, with flashbacks thrown in. For my 2nd draft, I got the idea to come into the story later–the question now is: how much later?

I think I might have gone too far into the story. I think I need to step back time wise. So, I spent the better part of my writing session today writing out scenes on post-it notecards (wonderful find!) & sticking them on the wall to try and figure out a timeline. I think I’ve found my in. It comes a little earlier & leaves more to be revealed over time. I think the problem with my first attempt was that I entered at a point where I’d have to reveal everything right up front for the reader to get hooked. Whereas, if I rewind the clock a bit I feel like I have more–more to actually make it to 300 pages.

So, while I didn’t exactly get a mentionable word count in today, I do think I made some progress in terms of thinking this out. And now, I can stare at the wall next to my desk & see it all laid out & move the pieces (notecards) as I need to until it makes perfect sense.

Today is my half-birthday. This used to be incredibly important when I was younger. Really, when does the half birthday lose it’s significance? I kind of like the idea. It’s kind of a mid-way evaluation point. A sort of review point to see if you are on track with another year of your life. Awfully useful.

Actually, the reason I tend to remember mine & take note of it is because my brother’s birthday is the day after.

Anyways, I’ve decided that I’m taking note of this opportunity to look back on the last 6 months & take stock. Pretty much, they sucked. Well, not all of it. The summer was fine. Just the last 10 weeks of it sucked for obvious reasons. I will acknowledge one good thing to come out of the last 6 months: I finished the 1st draft of my novel. That’s definitely an accomplishment. And, I’ve actually moved ahead with the 2nd draft, even if it hasn’t been given the attention it deserves or requires.

But, alas, I resolve to put the last half of the year behind me. Ok, not really behind me. There are plenty of reminders that will never let me do that. But I choose to move forward & to get working on the goals I’d set for myself in this my 33rd year of life. Namely, my freaking novel!!!

So, I have 6 months from today; 6 months until my 34th birthday, to get it done. And I mean done. No more drafts. No more edits. Done. Finished. Either submitted or ready to be submitted to editors & agents.

I really need something else, something good, to remember this year for.

Image: Crimsonically Yours via flickr

Currently listening to: Just for Now by Imogen Heap

Six weeks ago today…

There’s this underlying suckiness to Saturdays even if the day isn’t completely horrid. I know eventually that will change, but for now, that’s just the way it is. I just choose to accept it & get through it.

So, first day of NaNoWriMo and draft #2. Met with my writing group this morning. Only eked out 649 words. Two of which were: “Chapter 1.” Every little word counts! A little unsure about where it’s going, but I’m keeping with it. I think once I get through Chapter 1 I’ll feel more confident. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. In reading draft #1, & given recent events, I’ve found that I want to change one central premise of the story. I always knew it didn’t ring true before, & now even less so. So, chapter 1 is about working that in. I know it ties in well with the rest of the story, it’s laying it out for the first time. It requires totally changing up what was my 1st chapter in draft #1. I know draft #2 is not going to look much like draft #1, if for nothing else than the fact that I’m going with 1st person POV. But whole chapters, scenes, ideas are going to get tossed & new ones worked in. That’s what a rewrite is. As much as possible, I’m trying to avoid looking at draft #1. I want to start clean in away. Draft #1 was about working out the plot & characters. This one is about the writing & finessing. I need something decent by end of the year for conferences!

So, have to do a little work this afternoon, & am going to dinner & a movie with a friend this evening. The plan is to come home & write later tonight. I want to stay on track with my word count. If anything, I’d like to be ahead of 50K by the end of the month. I don’t know how realistic that is. Life has a way of getting in the way. But still, it’s nice to have goals these days.

Oh, doing one more thing today: buying flowers or a plant. It’s become my Saturday thing. A way to maybe make the day less sucky. Something for the house–to brighten or liven the place up. I just need the day to be about something besides my memories.

Image: DarthShrine via flickr

Currently listening to: Secret Meeting by The National

Work. Lunch with friends. Entertained a baby. Ran some errands. Got whined at by one of my dogs (he’s very vocal). Went & got my WIP draft printed–all 228 pages. I think the plan is to work on draft #2. The road has forked & this is the direction I need to take. The more I think about it the more I realize I have put in so much time–over a year–into this story already. I can’t imagine chucking it & starting over from scratch while keeping my promise to submit to conferences at the end of the year. So, NaNoWriMo will be all about draft #2. Not exactly keeping true to the intention of NaNo, but I will have 50,000 words of something, even if it’s something old, & not something new.

I guess today was benign, as most of my days are these days. Neither worthy of saying good, nor horrible enough to warrant being called bad. Throughout the day, I found myself thinking how unreal her death seems. I still feel like she’s just out-of-town; she’ll be back. I know that’s not reality, but I honestly can’t convince myself. My mind has a mind of it’s own.

This is just surreal.

Image: Whatknot via flickr

I guess it’s good that I’m only counting in weeks & not days, hours, or minutes. Although, that is likely due to the fact that I can’t keep track of one day or the next. Weeks are more manageable units of time, larger. Still, I have trouble even fathoming that five of them have now passed.

I still find myself wanting to tell her things. I tell her in my head. It’s not the same.

Today was ok, good I guess. I spent the morning at my writing group. As a result I’m thinking of going on to draft #2 of the WIP. I was looking at it today & I realized I’ve done so much & put in so much time & effort to get from beginning to end of one draft. I feel like I should carry through & finish it. But still, I have moments–like now–where I think I should move on to something else. I have a vague idea, but all this new idea has amounted to is a bunch of random lines floating around in my head & a blank page. At this point, the easier of the two is to go on to draft #2 of the WIP. At least I know that story. So, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing yet…just a week until NaNoWriMo starts. I’m thinking I’ll dive into draft #2 with the understanding that the story could change; or that once I’m working on it, whatever this new thing floating around in my head is might finally materialize on paper.

We’ll see. Today I actually felt ok with the idea of picking up the WIP & working on draft #2. I guess that idea of living deliberately kicked in a little today. I really do want to be ready for the writer’s conference in February, & I know I have a good story in what I was working on. I don’t want to get off track. And while I know so much has happened that it’s understandable for me to get off track & take a new one, I no longer like the idea of giving up something that I’ve literally spent years working on. The difference a few days, a few weeks can make. So, as I said, we’ll see. I’m just going to let what happens happen. But first, I need to finish reading draft #1. Although, once I do that, I might be more than willing to chuck it for something new. Kidding.

Let’s see, spent the rest of the afternoon spending some quality time with the dogs outside to make up for my absence yesterday, & went to lunch & for a little shopping with my brother’s girlfriend’s sister (that sounds way more complicated than it is). We’ve never really hung out before, but it was nice. So, I guess, a new friend.

Now, I’m watching Casino Royale for the six-millionth time on cable. It’s on whenever there seems to be nothing else on, which is good since I actually really like the movie. I so prefer Daniel Craig as James Bond. I am looking forward to the new movie in just a few short weeks. Yeah…although I read earlier today that it’s getting mixed reviews. Nonetheless, I will see it.

So, all in all, not a bad day. A good day even. I wish that was easier to say.

I still hate this.

My mother died a week ago yesterday. It was completely unexpected. Although she was 63 and had some health issues, she’d been doing fine. There was no way to see it coming.

Five years ago, I left behind a career & life that had left me unsatisified at its best, and miserable at its worst. I moved home to LA & to my mother. It was supposed to be temporary. I ended up staying.

I came home last Saturday to find her dead.

I came home five years ago to find myself. In the process, I found a relationship with my mother as an adult. I had worried that it was weird that I had little desire to move out in these last five years and get back out on my own. But today, I realize how lucky I was to have had that time.

So here I am.

We scattered her ashes 2 days ago. I know it was exactly as she wanted. It was perfect–for lack of a better word. A beautiful and somewhat comforting moment.

Family & friends gathered to remember her and celebrate her life yesterday. I’m sure everyone else would tell you it was a nice get-together. For me it was torture. I sat there in the backyard of family friends looking for my mother. She was always there at all their other gatherings. When looking at pictures of me & my best friend when we were younger, I had to ask her mother how old we were in the picture. That killed.

And today, I realized that getting to & through the funeral was the “easy” part–and I use the term “easy” loosely. The constant visits by friends & family have stopped. The daily phone calls to see how I’m doing & whether I need anything have ceased. Everyone else is going back to their normal lives. And I’m sitting here trying to figure out what my new “normal” is.

Luckily, my younger brother is here with me & we are going through this together. Even though my parents divorced when I was 12 & their relationship was strained for many years, my mother & father had become friends in recent years–probably out of a need to commiserate about the choices my brother & I made. My father has been incredible. My mother & I had often joked that she needed to stick around because my brother would be an emotional basket-case & my father useless & stoic. I would be the one stuck taking care of them. Instead, she’s not here; my brother is remarkably strong; my father incredibly useful & open; & I’m the one who’s floundering.

As my father reminded me yesterday, I’m grieving & I’m still in shock. I’m supposed to feel like shit & I’m not supposed to know how to feel. On an intellectual level, I know it will get better & I know I will survive. But on an emotional level, I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this & I’ve never felt so lost.

I want to do something. I want to throw myself back into work, but I can’t even focus for more than 2-minutes on anything or go more than an hour without my eyes welling up with tears. I’m not ready to act like everything is normal. I’m not ready for anyone to expect anything of me.

So, I’m doing this. I’m writing. I never intended this blog to become THIS personal, but this feels like I’m doing something. I can focus on this.

The 1st draft of my novel is sitting here on my desktop. I’d planned to finish reading it last weekend & to get started on my 2nd draft this past weekend. That hasn’t happened. And I’m not sure it will. I don’t know if the “me” now can write that story anymore. I’m going to give it time, & see what happens. But I get the feeling I have to let that story go, & look at the new one that is floating in my head. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I can feel something there. We’ll see.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote in my journal, “Without writing, I am adrift.” Now I realize, without writing & without my mother, I am adrift. I’m clinging to writing to keep me afloat.

Mood: Frustrated with my procrastination

Currently listing to: Wisconsin by Bon Iver

I’m expecting a book order from Amazon today. Just 3 books this time around, as I’ve realized I have quite a book backlog on my nightstand.

  • The Bell by Iris Murdoch (one on my summer reading list)
  • Best Friends by Martha Moody (a gift from a friend)
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (I keep starting this book, but can’t get past chapter 2. I should just give up, but I hate to leave books I buy unread.)
  • The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (another one that I keep starting & can’t get through. It must have been a bad book buying day when I bought this, because I bought Love Walked In the same day.)
  • Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen (one of those craft books. Looks interesting. Just haven’t been in the headspace to read it.)
  • The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley (just bought last week. Will get to it.)
  • The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (this is one that I just open up & read a story here and there when I have time.)

…and soon to arrive:

  • Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir by Stephanie Klein (read about this book here & it sounded like a fun read. Also, I like Klein’s blog & keep meaning to read one of her books.)
  • The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg (I read her book Open House a while ago & liked it. I’ve been meaning to read something else from her. Noticed this is written in 1st person, so that made it appealing given my current needs–read below.)
  • Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Danielle La Porte & Carrie McCarthy (this book is part of my quest to figure myself out. Never hurts to be more self-aware.)

…and currently reading:

  • The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (half-way through & really liking this. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking to read.)

I’ve just been a slower reader than usual the last couple of months; but a apparently a very prolific book buyer. I don’t know what’s going on. Probably just a phase. Will say I’m really liking the book I’m currently reading. I think part of my reading funk has been because I can’t seem to find exactly what I want. Because my plan is to work on draft #2 in 1st person, I really want to immerse myself in 1st person. But I’m having the hardest time finding books that I want to read. Yes, there are plenty of good books out there written in 1st, but I guess I’m just looking for a certain voice. I keep walking into every bookstore I come across, pulling books off the shelves, & reading the first page. More often than not, it’s not what I’m looking for. But I guess I’m realizing that what I’m looking for is what I’m trying to write. My head wants to hear a certain voice that letting in any others, any that aren’t quite right, is just difficult.

I know what this all means. I need to write my own book.

On that front, the reading of draft #1 is taking longer than I expected. Not because I hate it or anything, I just keep saying I’ll get to it, & I don’t. This is starting to frustrate me. Yes, my procrastination & I might soon come to blows. I want to get started on draft #2, sooner rather than later. So, to get that going, I need to finish reading this & figuring out what I can take from it & what I need to do to make it better the next time around.

So, instead of saying “I plan to…”, I’m going to say: I AM WILL FINISH READING DRAFT #1 BY THE END OF THIS WEEK.

And: I AM WILL WORK ON AN ARTICLE IDEA THAT’S BEEN FLOATING AROUND IN MY HEAD THE LAST COUPLE DAYS.

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