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I write young adult novels whenever I'm not taking care of children, making meals, and tackling the Mount Everest of laundry piles.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Finding Time to Write

 I thought I might write about finding time to write today since I always hear lots of writers lament about not having any time to write. I find that this is a pretty easy subject to tackle. If you are passionate enough about writing you will create spaces in your schedule where you can put pen to paper. If you aren't serious enough, it'll never happen.

 Everyone thinks that their schedule is too full. It just comes down to how badly you want it. I have found that I have to write, just like some people have to run or paint or play music. I am a happier person when I make the time-so I do. I will postpone cleaning the house, making a meal, doing laundry-most anything that isn't urgent and doesn't affect my family in a bad way to write. And they are glad that I do because it makes me easier to live with.

There are always things that you can weed out of your schedule. Television is probably the easiest--it is like a black hole that literally pulls all of your time and energy away. Record the shows you absolutely can't miss and give up the rest. You won't even miss them, trust me. The great thing about writing is that you are in absolute control of when you do it and how often. There is no magical time frame, no set amount that needs to get accomplished.

Be passionate about writing and you won't have this issue at all. If you're passionate you'll have more of a problem finding time for everything else.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

College

I had a critique partner of mine tell me just the other day that my first manuscript (which has been revised within an inch of its life, by the way...for almost two years--but who's counting) is probably not very commercial. And this particular person has enough experience to know. Very shortly after I got some less direct, but equally strong critique from two other partners who had some of the very same concerns she did-- which pretty much confirms that the fate of this story is not good right now. And that's some harsh reality to get hit with all at once. But God bless 'em all, because their honesty is just as important to my writing as the actual writing itself and without them I would be failing a lot more often and more spectacularly. So if any of you lovely ladies happen to read this: thanks again for kicking my butt:)

Still, about now you're probably thinking that I'm writing this from underneath my desk since that type of tough love is difficult to swallow--although it almost always goes down a little easier when you chase it with a little Ben and Jerry's cookie dough ice cream;) But I'm not. You know why? Cause they are absolutely right. It is quiet and slow paced and not very original-not exactly ready for primetime. I knew this somewhere deep within, they only confirmed what I already suspected.

So what am I doing about it? I'm puttting on my big girl writing panties and I'm starting the next manuscript. I'm accepting that for now that first manuscript is the physical representation of my education in writing. It was my MFA program. It taught me how to revise, it taught me how to find my voice and plot. It taught me what I might be passionate about writing and what just might be me emulating someone else--there's a big difference. Even though this first baby isn't going to bring in so much as a trickle of agents interested in representing it, it is already priceless. I learned all of the what not to do's and they are way harder to internalize sometimes than the what to do's.

I say all of this because (for me and for all of us) what will hopefully make the difference between hoping to get published and actually being published  is how I/we handle the steep learning curve--because that's what rejection is--learning. When I manage to get it right and the plot, pacing, character development, and description lessons I've learned finally become fused to my brain I believe that the rest will just naturally follow--not huge fame and wealth, but agents and publishing (although I'm sure I wouldn't run screaming from a big pile of money and an interview with Oprah). My ability to see the lesson in the critique is what will ultimately make me a true writer and that was really the most important goal all along.

So I say embrace your mistakes, learn and move on 'cause in this business it's the only way to survive.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Self-Doubt

I was emailing back and forth with a friend this weekend and she mentioned being paralyzed with doubt about what to write next. I want to tell her that this passes or at least improves with time and lots of writing practice, but I don't think it does. I battle this monster each and every time I sit down to the computer and try to write a short story or a chapter in my latest manuscript or even a witty blogpost (which I find scariest of all)-which makes sense, right? After all I'm not a raving success as of yet-no agent or publisher to speak of. But the thing is I know some published authors who admit to sharing the same nagging feelings of "this is trash and no one will get it, much less like it". And there's just no cure for it, no magic totem or ritual that makes it go away. Self-doubt basically sits on all our shoulders and whispers in our ears all the time about how bad our collection of words are.

So I have no encouraging strategies or secrets of success to share that have helped me stay parked in my office chair day after day for hours on end in the face of  Mr. Doubt (and sometimes his brother rejection). It just comes down to tenacity. You have to refuse to stop even though your arms are weighed down under the overwhelming strain of his considerable weight. You ignore him, big and obnoxious as he may be and eventually he shrinks until he's more Tweety bird-sized than Pterodactyl.

I think we all just have to give ourselves permission to simply put words on paper and see what happens. Perfection isn't possible and good doesn't happen without a truck load of revising, so that first run of thoughts on paper should be free of restraint. Give yourself permission to write outrageously, make mistakes often-you won't ever get better if you don't run headlong into your writing and leave self-doubt wallowing in your dust.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Story Love

I am right smack in the middle of starting my second novel and it is the best place to be! I had forgotten the excitement of fresh words and ideas. My first novel was in revision a long, long time-and probably will return there if it doesn't attract any agent interest. I had sort of forgotten what it was like to be at the stage where the bones of the story are connecting in my head and I have no clear picture of what kind of animal that they'll form by the end, just a ballpark idea of what species it might be. It's exciting and terrifying and exhilarating. It is like the very first stages of a love affair when the other person is irresistably attractive and more than a little bit mysterious. I can't stop thinking about it, I'm throwing myself into researching and everything about my day feels a little brighter. I'm convinced it's true love.

It is awesome.

I am probably enjoying it more this time, too. Last time I was so insecure about my own writing ability and sense of plot that I fretted more than I swooned. But this time I know I can do it because I've already done it once before. I can recognize this fleeting stage for what it is and I'm savoring it. Soon I'll misstep somewhere in the middle and sink into plotting and character quicksand. Then I will moan and wail and eat too much cookie dough icecream until some random line of thought snakes across the surface of my story sand like a thick vine, just strong enough to hold onto so I can pull myself out.

After that, I will have a brief period of renewed passion until I finish the rough draft. but the revising process will slowly leech that away until I am so numb to the power of my own words that I will start to doubt that I had love for the story in the first place.

SO I am enjoying this courtship period to the fullest because I know what's next and this, my friends, is the best part.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

And so it begins...

I am officially a blogger thanks to my tirelessly supportive husband who stayed up late with me (even though he was sick) to get this bad boy up and running. Without his help, I would still be swaying in front of the monitor with my fingers poised over the keys afraid to touch anything. Now here I am, completely official...and totally stymied about what to write.  So maybe I'll begin by talking about what made me want to start writing in the first place.

I wasn't one of those people who always knew that they wanted to be a writer.  I think on some level writing was always a part of me, lurking in the background of my life waiting to be discovered, but I didn't take the time to look until two years ago.  I guess that makes me a late bloomer! Still, there were clues...like my addiction to playing pretend by myself in my room with the door shut.  I would pretend that my baby dolls were orphans left on my doorstep to be cared for by me, an extremely capable five year old. I could tell no one of their existence since there were any number of bad guys after them.Somehow I had to keep them alive because the fate of the world rested squarely in their tiny rubber hands-they were destined to be superheroes. 

 And later when most kids were starting to give up on toys in favor of spin the bottle and other boy-girl games, I was still putting Barbies on a deserted island(coffee table) in Kleneex dresses that I would gradually rip to shreds Survivor-style while they struggled to find their way back to the Barbie townhouse. 

I have always been addicted to books and spend most of my nights swallowing novels whole.  I even had several teachers throughout the years urge me to try and write more seriously...so it should have been obvious that writing was for me, but I am apparently oblivious to obvious. I've been a waitress, a doll maker and a teacher, and a stay at home mom since high school, but I only ever wrote in my journal.  What finally woke me up from my non-writing stupor was having my two beautiful daughters.  They made my life complete and I love them more than I can say, but somewhere between my first year home and the sixth one, they sucked the intellectual life out of me.  The only conversations I had were about diapers and colds and naps-for years. It was enough to force my writer's voice from the shadows and soon I couldn't contain all the sentences I needed to write, all the stuff I needed to say...I ran to paper and pencil and have been writing ever since.

So why write young adult novels?  Because they are about characters going through some of the biggest changes of their lives and it's fun to go back and live those changes through my character's eyes.  I write fantasy because I have always preferred reading it--not necessarily high fantasy-just magical events or characters sprinkled into the real world-enough fantasy to escape into. I also had such a strong connection to books at that stage of my life and I can think of nothing better than writing a book that will resonate with someone the same way.

So now you know a little something about me, if you somehow managed to stumble on this blog, let me know your story. I'd love to hear it!