writing


Monday I had lunch with a writing friend who has read pages of my novel-in-progress. She’s been a great sounding board for this story. Out of nowhere, she asked me if I had a title yet. The timing was a bit funny because only in the last week had I started to think that I had finally found something that was perfect. So, I floated my idea by her and she said it sounded perfect. (Yes, at times, my need for validation can be a bit ridiculous. I’m conscious of it and will be seeking therapy to deal with it once I finish this damn book and everyone tells me they love it.)

I had worried that I’d never come up with a title and would be submitting it to agents as “Untitled” or at worst, offering up prize money to a blog reader who could give me a good one. When it comes to writing, titles are the bane of my existence. Whether it be a title for a school paper, an article for the school newspaper, or hell, a title for a post on this blog, I suck at coming up with anything original, informative, funny, or witty. The only thing worse has been helping a friend come up with a name for her soon-to-be-born daughter. (Although, thankfully, I get final say on this one and won’t be resorting to a nickname to make the name palatable. Ok, the name isn’t that bad. There were worse ones under consideration. But I guarantee you, this kid will be spelling/explaining her name for the rest of her life.)

But, thanks to a song on my iPod, I think I’ve got a title.

So, my novel has a name, and it’s…Unraveling.

Music is such an important part of my life. Almost every pivotal moment–for better or worse–has been marked by a song. So, of course, I write with music. A certain song can get me in the right frame of mind for the emotion of a certain scene or into the head of one of my character’s. But more often than not, music serves as nothing more than white noise.

I can’t write in silence. I’ve never been able to write in silence. For as long as I can remember, whether it be doing homework in high school, writing a research paper in college, or a report for work, I have had my headphones on and a song playing in the background.

It occurred to me tonight as I was writing that more often than not, I play one song on repeat for the duration of my writing session. Tonight it was Bat for Lashes’ “Daniel.” Last night, Sarah Jarosz’s “Can’t Hide.” And the night before that The Swell Season’s “High Horses.”  Occasionally, I’ll go with pure instrumentals (Zoe Keating’s album is always a favorite.), but for the most part, lyrics don’t get in the way. The beginning of every writing session involves at least 10 minutes of me trying to find that one song that I want to hear, but that I can also completely tune out. I’ll sometimes spend 2 hours listening to the same song over and over again. I finally realized this is part of my writing ritual. Everyone has their own unique routine that helps them get in the mood and get focused. Apparently, those 10 “wasted” minutes and iTunes on repeat are mine.

…oh, by the way, the writing is going well. And most recent comments on second submission of pages to class were largely positive. The issues pointed out were the issues I was already conscious of. So, moving in the right direction.

Currently listening to: Can’t Hide by Sarah Jarosz

Today marks the halfway mark for National Novel Writing Month (i.e., NaNoWriMo), which means I should be at 25,000 words. Hmmm…well, let’s just say I’m a bit short. No need for specifics. I’m not counting myself out quite yet. I have made movement, but any significant advance in my word count was curbed by some serious editing & preparing for my second submission of pages for my novel class last week. Comments have started coming in on those, but I haven’t yet looked at them. No, I’m not having another anxiety attack about being liked, but rather, I don’t want to get sidetracked. If I look at them, I’m going to want to go back right now and work on whatever needs fixing when my focus needs to be on moving forward. So,  I will refrain, at least until tomorrow when they will demand my attention so that I can ask follow-up questions and issue some thank you’s to classmates & instructor for reading. (more…)

Nanowrimo 2009 largeYes, I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short, again this year. This marks my 5th year. The first three years I succeeded and hit 50,000 words. Last year, I failed miserably. But all things considered, the fact that I even ventured to try to do it last year was an accomplishment.

Day 1 is off to a good start. Met up with a group of NaNo-ers this morning & spent 4 hours writing. Got just over 1,800 words–making the daily word count goal of 1667 words. Admittedly, my writing was a little slower going than a usual NaNo as I am being a bit of a NaNo rebel this year. Instead of adhering to the original NaNo principle of starting a novel from scratch on Day 1, I am doing this 50K as part of my WIP. So, I’m reluctant to just spew words out in the hope of making my word count every day. I’m trying to make them quality words in the hope that upon revision few will need to be hacked away. The goal is to work forward on the WIP and be closer to being finished on December 1 than I was when I started.

In the midst of all this, my next submission for my class is due November 10. I’ll be submitting the next 30-pages. Some of them are already written, some need to be heavily revised, & others need to be written from scratch. And I’ll be doing all this while working on NaNo.

So, if you hear from me even less than usual this month that will be why. But you can always find me wasting time on Twitter.

So, those comments I was so anxious about…

Well, they really were nothing to be afraid of, even though it took me another 3 days to finally look at them. (When I get a bit irrational, I get really irrational.)

So, FWI* raised 3 issues:

  1. One of my supporting characters is too much a shadow right now. He needs to be filled in.
  2. I’m spending too much time in some scenes. I’m being a bit methodical—showing every movement in a scene. I need to cut into and out some of the scenes more quickly.
  3. There is no stated geographical setting.

None of these issues surprises me. They’re all things of which I’ve been aware. (more…)

Image: svanes via flickr

Image: svanes via flickr

I’m experiencing something I’ve never before experienced with my novel-in-progress: anxiety.

We’re talking major butterflies. I seriously feel like I want to throw-up. (FYI: It usually takes a lot to make me feel like this.)

My favorite/current writing instructor, plus a couple of my workshop mates, has just posted comments on the novel pages I submitted for workshop this week. And I can’t bring myself to open the files with the comments to see what they had to say. The thought of doing so makes me want to back away from my computer and hide in the closet. (more…)

Image: Markus Rodder via Flickr

Image: Markus Rodder via Flickr

Yes, I’ve been a terribly horrible blogger, but if it’s any consolation, know that my words have instead been poured into that infamous novel-in-progress.

Yes, I’ve been making progress & it feels good. Admittedly, most of the progress made has less to do with me being a diligent self-motivated worker & more to do with the looming deadline for my novel class & the overwhelming need to impress my favorite writing instructor with these new pages. Hey, but whatever keeps me on task!

So, the new noveling class is going well. It feels so good to be back with my favorite writing instructor (from here on out referred to as FWI), & already I’m feeling the love. Here’s what I got back last week from him for one of my critiques:

Hurry up and publish your novel so I can recommend you to teach one of these courses [in the] Writer’s Program. Your readings are that good.

Sorry, but my writer/editor ego relishes these kudos. Pathetic I know! Chalk it up to the fragile artist’s ego…ok, so mine’s not really so fragile. It’s just nice to be patted on the back & share it publicly.  (more…)

Well, just got the official enrollment for my fall writing class which will have me working with my favorite instructor again. There was some question as to whether or not I would be able to enroll in the class, but it’s all official now. Which means I have only 7 days to get the first 50-pages of my novel-in-progress ready for the 1st day of class. I’ve known that I would need these pages ready for the first day for weeks, but the fact that my enrollment was up in the air kind of found me procrastinating on all the editing that needs to be done. So, now I have to go through those pages and chop and massage what I’ve already written, and add where needed.

One of the more complicated tasks is that I now need to go back in and weave two separate threads together. Earlier this summer I made the decision to write this draft of my novel in a chronological format even though my plan is to have the final product be a back-and-forth of present & past. So, to ensure that my structure is working, I need to piece it all back together again so that my readers are seeing it in the format I intend. While the structure is a bit complicated at times, I know it works. My instructor who I’ve workshopped this with before has assured me it does and that I shouldn’t take the easy way out and go straight chronological. But, I know I have to ensure an emotional consistency to the two threads which at times is unintentionally easy, and at others, irritatingly frustrating. Essentially I need the emotional tone of the flashback to mirror the present scene it sprung from. This was something my instructor dinged me on in the earlier draft he saw, and I really want to fix it before he sees this new draft.

So, work to be done and 7 days to pull it all together. On the upside, I thrive under a deadline. Seriously, if someone assigned me a deadline for this novel and could come up with a real threat that would cause me some discomfort–either emotional, physical, or financial–I would totally get this novel done in no time. But short of a publication date and a hefty advance riding on it, I’ll have to settle for workshop pressure and the need to impress my instructor. Whatever works I suppose.

I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library. Admittedly, the major reason could be my complete inability to ever return a book on time. But, that’s not exactly it. I’ve never been one for borrowing books from the library for the same reason I’ve never been one for used bookstores: I like the feel of a brand new book. I like knowing that I am the first one to crack it open. The first one to fold down the pages to mark my place. The one to make those creases in the bind. The one whose handwriting lines the margins where I had to note an exceptionally beautiful line. But as I’ve ventured into the writing world, I’ve become an even bigger proponent of buying my books new because that’s the best way to support the writers I love. (more…)

Even though I’m still wallowing in the middle of my own personal wasteland, AKA draft #2, I’ve started to pay attention to the business side of publishing. Yes, I have a ways to go before I need to face it head on with my own work, but the fact is, I find the publishing industry fascinating, so I don’t mind learning all the intricacies of the process, from writing to publication.

The bleakness of the publishing industry is a constant theme these days. I even touched on it in my post/rant yesterday on the state of journalism. And I’ve heard and read over and over again that literary fiction doesn’t sell. You would think that would make me reconsider my work-in-progress, but the fact is, I’m not writing for publication nor am I catering my writing to what sells. I am writing this story, which falls into the category of literary fiction, because it is the story I want to tell. It is also a story I would like to read. That has always been my foremost priority, writing a book I like. If someone else should ever like it as much as I do, well, great. But as I slog away at draft #2 that’s not my focus and it’s not what keeps me motivated on those days I just want to be done with it and chuck the whole damn thing. (more…)

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