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.

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.

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.

Mood: Craving…a nap

Currently listening to: The evening news

This afternoon I had some time to kill so I wandered into Borders bookstore. I was browsing the fiction shelves. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to go about it alphabetically. Even if I’m looking for a specific book, if I have the time, I still start at “A” and make my way through to “Z.” You never know what you might find.

So, today I found myself stopping to see where a book written by me would be shelved. I have to say, I like the company such a book would be keeping. To my left, Eudora Welty and to my right, Edith Wharton. Not bad. All the more motivation to write something good.

Still reading draft #1. Slow going. Not necessarily because it sucks, but because this has been a long week. Still hoping to get through it by the end of the weekend. Reading it is definitely motivating me to want to start on draft #2. I want to try again. I want to start over & see if I can address some of the ticks I’m noticing in my writing. We’ll see.

Image: gadl via flickr

Mood: Dazed

Currently listening to: It’s Not True by William Fitzsimmons

When I typed THE END on my 1st draft, I saved it in triplicate & put it away. My plan was to start on draft #2 without reading draft #1. I wanted to go into this next draft without the baggage of the 1st. Yes, I would be using the plot line I’d established & the scenes that got me from page 1 to page 227. At least for the most part. The 1st draft was about figuring out where the characters & the story wanted to go. My goal for my 2nd draft was to focus more on the details–setting, dialog, descriptions, character–now that I had a better idea of how to get from here to there.

Well, I went to my writing group yesterday & I was talking to Dot, who is well past her 1st draft & working on finessing a final version of her WIP. She believes in reading what you’ve written & working from that to improve your 2nd draft. Makes sense right. In all my other writing, I do a 1st draft & then use that material to work on the 2nd, 3rd, etc. So, why wasn’t I doing it for this? As she pointed out, while I might think it’s crap, there might just be some good lines or even paragraphs, a thread to be unwound further or better developed in draft #2, etc. There might be something in there that I do want to carry over into draft #2, & I shouldn’t totally discount what I’ve just written. She’s right.

So, I spent the rest of writing group reading draft #1, starting at chapter 1, page 1. I only got up through chapter 2–it turned out to be one of those chat filled writing group days. But, there in chapter 2, I realized my ending–the last line that I typed…the one I’d feared I’d rushed & questioned–actually tied together perfectly with one of main themes in my story. When I wrote the ending, I did so without consciously making the connection. But there, in chapter 2, it was there, & I must admit, I was a little stunned. It was weird to realize that somewhere in my cluttered mind connections were being made & written for me.

I never would have realized how much the current ending made sense if I hadn’t started reading this draft. Who knows what else is in there. I don’t. So, I have to read it to find out. And while there will undoubtably be more painful, cringeful moments than not, I need to know what’s there. Because maybe then I’ll realize I’m not so full of crap & maybe there will be something worth doing something with once I have a final draft.

I typed it. There, at the very bottom of page 226.

I’ve saved a copy to my hard drive, to my thumb drive, and I’ve attached a copy to myself in an email. You can never be too careful with 226-pages, over 73,000+ words, & what amounts to more than a year of your life.

That’s it. I’m letting it go. This draft is what it is. Is the ending perfect? No. But I think I’m ready to start over and see how it ends in my 2nd draft.

This is a truly weird feeling. I can’t quite describe how this feels. I know this is a major accomplishment, but honestly, it just feels weird & a little anticlimactic. I think in a lot of ways my mind is already on draft #2. Before I even sat down to write the last page tonight, I was making character notes for draft #2. I guess I just finally caught up with myself.

So, taking a few days off to absorb, reflect, and mentally prepare for draft #2. Then will get going again.

The new goal: 2nd draft completed by December 31st.

——-

Ok, just realized that for more than the last hour I’ve been listening to the same song on repeat. Earlier tonight I had a certain song on repeat, but I had stopped that song & thougt I was listening to a whole album. But no. Apparently, I’ve been so spaced & dazed with all this that I’ve been listening to the same song over & over & over & over again. It’s time for bed.

Mood: Unsure

Currently listening to: Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event (on repeat)

Still sitting here, rereading my last scene, trying to figure out if I’m at the end.

So, when in doubt, & since I’m in doubt, turn to the craft books.

#1: Plot & Structure: Techniques & Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell

According to Bell, there are 3 basic endings:

“…(1) the Lead gets his objective, a positive ending; (2) we don’t know if the Lead will get his desire, an ambiguous ending; and (3) the Lead loses his objective, a negative ending.”

At this point my ending would fall under #2. And for an ambiguous ending, he recommends that for it to be good it “causes strong feeling, feels right, and can generate discussion.” I think my current “ending” meets the 2nd & 3rd criteria. As for the 1st, not sure. I think it does. At least for me.

Bell also recommends that as your near the end of your first draft, you should stop and think up 10 alternate endings. Yikes. 10? Well, maybe if I’m still hesitating tomorrow. I guess I’ve already come up with 2. The one I thought I was going to write & the one I just did. Not sure where I would get 8 more. I’ll give this exercise some thought. Definitely a good idea for the 2nd draft.

#2: Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Novakovich writes:

“Give us another look, or angle, or thought, on what has just taken place in your fiction, something that will put it all in perspective.”

I think I’ve done that. He goes on to add:

“When you are about to end a piece, decide which image or thought you want your reader to carry as the last impression…. endings with striking sensory images are often preferable to abstract ones.”

Hmmm…I agree with this. I think I have done this to a certain degree, but I could definitely do more with the sensory image. It’s somewhat there, but could definitely be filled out, beefed up. He also recommends that the writer end while the action is still going on. I would say I’ve done that. My MC has come to an emotional epiphany, but there is still much action going on around her.

Novakovich elaborates on this further when he talks about the Open Ending and how a successful example of this “answers some psychological questions and yet leaves off without resolving the action.” It lets the reader get involved in imagining what came next in terms of the action, but they’re given a sense of what the character’s state-of-mind is now so that they have a better idea of what the character might have actually done. This is definitely where my ending is.

#3: A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon

Lyon writes:

“One of the most popular endings is the epiphany. This means that the character ‘comes to realize’ something fundamental about self or life. In an illuminating moment, the protagonist gains perspective on his or her life–the past, the struggle of the plot events that they have just finished, and of the potential for the future.”

As I’ve already realized & said, my ending definitely falls in this category. Not so thrilled that it’s one of the most popular types of endings, but what can you do. It is what it is. Lyon suggests ending your story in the same settings where it began. I like this idea, and in the ending I thought I was going to have, that was what I was going to do. While I haven’t done that here, there are parallels between the beginning setting and the ending setting & I can probably further develop the parallels to really tie it together better. She also mentions ending from the point of view of your main character and with “a sense of peace & hope.” I’ve done both. Definitely the former; I guess the latter is subjective.

#4: Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg & Laura Whitcomb

Rittenberg writes:

“As you finish your first draft, slow down when you get to the last page or two. The words you use to end your story flavor the whole novel…. Bring together all the power and beauty of your storytelling as you say goodbye to your readers. Show them where they’ve been–remind them what it’s all about–and save the best for last.”

Hmmm…well given that this is my first draft & that those 70,000+ words between the beginning & the end are of questionable quality, I do think the end is better than the rest. Some of the lines, maybe even paragraphs, might survive in the 2nd draft. While the exact words of the last sentence aren’t as powerful as I want them to be, for now, I can live with the fact that I’ve come to the place–physically & emotionally–that I need my MC to be at to feel that this is the end of this draft.

#5: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Maybe when all is said and done, Lamott says it best. She’s titled her chapter on endings, How Do You Know When You’re Done? And then in the second line of the chapter answers the question.

“You just do.”

I guess I just do.