Sunday, September 30, 2012

DON'T BACK DOWN

We saw the movie "Don't Back Down" today and it truly inspired and motivated me both for my job and in my writing life. The story is about a group of parents and teachers who take on the school board in an attempt to make the school more effective. It's based on a true story, one I'm not familiar with and I will do some research on it. I want to know how they changed the school to make it better.

As a school administrator working with a system and bureaucracy that are more interested in saving money than providing services for children, I know what it's like to be frustrated and angered at the powers that be. I know that it isn't easy to make changes. In a time when job security is hard to find it often seems nonproductive to fight the system. How do you risk your own financial security in order to make things better? Better yet, how can you possibly sit back and watch kids continually get short changed? The movie brought a lot of questions. I need time to ponder. But I also know I can't easily step in and go along with things that don't make sense to me.

And therein lies the title, "don't back down" and the connection to my writing life. I believe I am a writer. I have enough publication credits to prove it to the world as well as to myself. So I felt, after this movie, that I can't back down from this dream. I must keep plugging away, finding more and more time to write. I need to be more determined to get this thing I want so badly.

Sometimes sitting in a dark movie theatre brings it all to light.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

AT THE BOOKSTORE

I don't normally like to write outside of my little writing space at home. I've created a nice "room of my own" where I have a computer and a separate desk to sit at and write longhand scenes in my spiral notebooks. I have soft instrumental music playing, not the slam bam of what they play at Barnes and Noble these days. In the past, when I went to Barnes and Noble, soft classical music followed book lovers as they perused the shelves. Now, not only do they play pop music, but shelves of music CDs and DVD movies and a huge bank of nook e-readers have overtaken the space that used to hold books. The books have been pushed back making room for today's vast array of media materials.

Today however I learned something. Barnes and Noble is not a bad place to rack up pages of novel scenes and outlines for chapters. A cup of decaf at my elbow and my laptop opened on the table in the cafe I was prisoner of my thoughts. I couldn't take off and clean, or go watch tv, or make art journal pages like I do at home to avoid writing. Of course there are books to distract me, but I sat and wrote. It was a lesson in perserverance.

I created an outline template for act one of my novel "Megan's Gift" from materials in "Book in a Month." Outlines and synopses are harder to write than the actual 60,000 word novel, but faced with the questions in the template I pushed myself to answer them based on my novel idea. I learned that I know more about where I'm going with this book than I thought I did. I'm sure if I had tried to do this at home I would have felt challenged and then looked for some way to procrastinate over that task. Now I have a better direction for my writing,

I also mangaged to write a draft of my jacket cover copy, which is the first exercise in the novel writing class I'll be taking online. That's also a challenge but the process helps clarify character goals and points of conflict and tension so essential in novels of the 21st century.

I was resistant to going to the bookstore today because I thought I would be distracted from writing. But my husband wanted to go to get a cookbook for his son so I agreed and found by surprise a writing focus I didn't think I had. Maybe I can actually get this book finished this time around.

Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 28, 2012

NOVEL EVOLUTION

I've had a novel-in-progress for three years now and it's time to commit to finishing it, revising it and sending it out into the world. I am grateful to my writers' group, Tapestries, for reading and critiquing my evolving chapters, commenting on characters, and helping me find direction. Now it's time to put aside all other writing and be done with this.

I just enrolled in an online writing class on www.Wow-women-on-writing.com. They offer wonderful classes in many genres. I've taken a couple of helpful and inspiring ones on flash fiction and poetry. But now it's novel time.

To keep up my commitment I am going to blog about my writing progress and post bits and pieces of the novel here to tempt whomever might be interested. It's a struggle to write a novel, creating fascinating characters in suspenseful stories and written in an alluring way. But it's also great fun to get into the heads of people you've created. It's magical to get lost inside a story you made up yourself. And it's heady business to share that. So I hope you'll read along and share my story as well as its progress.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

STALLED IN THE WRITE LANE

I believe that writer's block occurs when you face the blank white page or monitor and no story ideas flow from your fingers. No characters march, or stroll, or jog leaving plot footprints. No inciting incident startles you, no turning point shows its dramatic face. So I can't say I have writer's block. I prefer to think of this thought bare state as a stall in my novel.

I have characters and plot, the inciting incident has run its course, I know the main character's goal and I know some of the obstacles that will befall her. But still I am stalled. I've revised this story several times and suddenly that goal has shifted. Usually I know where I'm going but have to find the ways to get there that provide a good read. Right now I'm not sure where I'm going. I'm trying several exercises to figure that out.

I'm writing more character profiles and trying to rework the plot trajectory, but I'm not getting too far.

It's at this stalled point in a novel when I have to decide whether to let the story go and begin a new one or struggle over this hump and find my story's flow again. It's a hard decision and the lure of a new plot and new characters hangs over my head. But I like my plot and I don't want to let it go, but I can't grab onto to it tight enough to keep writing.

But I will keep writing, because that's what I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Lost Notebook

I have been working on  a novel, temporarily called "Megan's Gift," for three years. Of course it's off and on so not actually representative of three years' writing. The story itself has changed several times and was down to it's last incarnation up until today. I've gotten up to chapter 25 in the first draft of this present version. Right now I am trying to refine it's final core story so I can finish the darn thing, though I have a few ideas for changes brewing in my mind. The thing is I'm on my fourth day of a four day weekend and just sat down to work. But . . . I lost my notebook.

Don't feel too sorry for me as everything in that notebook has been typed out and backed up. But I prefer to write first drafts in longhand in spiral notebooks and I hoped to pick up where I left off and get a new running start. Now this is my excuse for procrastination.

Losing three longhand chapters, plus the chapter typed out whose pages I stuck into the notebook, is like a mountain in front of me halfway through a long journey. I was about to take the scenes from chapter 25 and rewrite them as my new chapter 8. Now I have to start from scratch.

The lost notebook is like "The Lost Weekend." An ephemeral missing piece of time in my writing life.

It's not the lost words but the idea that I can't find the darn book that bothers me. There are only a few places it could be, but of course it's not in any of those places. Now I don't know where to look.

I suppose the best thing to do is start writing in a new notebook and not waste time searching for the old one. That sounds practical. So off I go to get more words down. Chapter 8 here I come.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

COMMITMENT

A commitment to writing is a dangerous animal. It roars and breathes fire that licks at the brain even when you are sleeping. It never leaves you alone and yet it adds a dimension to your life that warms the heart and stresses you to the nth degree. I've written before about my constant genre jumping but lately I feel a pull into a more committed type of writing. It takes work and perseverence which is difficult to do when I already have a full time job, but I have no choice. It is in me and it is what I do.

I have had enough success with short stories recently to know I need to concentrate on that as my writing genre. Of course poetry will still abide as it is my first reading/writing love and my true passion. Why waste all that time on trying to finish a novel that has been in progress for three years now when I have written at least 20 stories this year, and numerous poems. I need to put some time into revising and submitting all that work. Nothing gets publsihed sitting in a binder on a shelf.

It's time to make a commitment to study, read, write, revise and submit short stories and poems. As September blooms cool and welcoming I will move ahead toward more success.

Today I resubmitted a story that was just rejected and I sent two queries for my short story collection to agents. I am now searching all resources for agents and publsihers of short story collections and researching markets for individual stories and poems.

Wish me luck my blogging and writing friends.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More success

Did you ever feel like life was handing out all its joy to you and you alone? That's how I've been feeling. So I have a new car and a new computer. I am married to a wonderful man who adores me and I have a good job, despite the fact that my license plate says, "I'd rather be writing." Who could ask for more? I have more though. Besides cooking and laundry my husband works hard to pave the path for me to get to my writing and it is beginning to pay off.

In the past year I have published two more short stories and a poem. I now have 30% of the stories in my short story collection published and that means I can legitimately submit queries to agents and publishers. I am in the process of refining my query letter with the help of my writng group, Tapestries and Melanie Faith, a teacher I have taken several online classes with. I hope to be sending that query out this week and waiting for responses. It's a long wait, I know, and I want to fill that time with more revisions and more writing.

It's September, summer is winding its way out and school begins next week. I will be busy at work but I also want to establish a solid writing routine. It means more focused writing in the morning before work and skipping my fave television shows at night-- Jeopardy and Seinfeld re-runs.

And, oh, a quick aside, I made lifetime at Weight Watchers this week as well.

Life is good, really good.