30-Day Blog Challenge, Day 22

How have your changed in the past 2 years?

Two years ago this week I started a new job after being a teacher for almost 10 years. I left the classroom to work as a curriculum developer and instructional designer at an educational software company. I spent the first week feeling completely overwhelmed and thinking I would never learn everything I needed to know in order to survive in the corporate environment. Prior to that job I’d only ever worked for small businesses and non-profits, so it was eye-opening to be in a culture that was largely focused on money, yet still interested in making a difference.

So for the last two years I tried my best to understand and learn what I needed to know. Many things came quickly to me and I was promoted and viewed as a leader. But I don’t think I ever learned to play the office politics game. And that side of the business weighed heavily on me. I felt a constant struggle between doing was is right for students and teachers and the nagging feeling like I should be trying to “get ahead” some how.

In my personal life, I started writing more than I ever had before and I discovered that it was what I was meant to do. So that feeling, combined with not being crazy about my office job led me to start freelancing. It’s been about 8 weeks and it was definitely the right move.

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Hey there! I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in a blog tour by friend and fellow YA writer, VB Bernard. We’ve been writing buddies, accountability partners, beta readers and all round writing supports for each other for about a year now. Please check out her author page on facebook: www.facebook.com/vbbernard and check out how she completed her blog tour entry last week.

So here we go with question:
1) What am I working on?

What aren’t I working on is the question. I’m working on revising two contemporary YA novels. One called Takes One to Know One about a girl and boy who are hiding secrets from each other, or at least think they are. The other is Punx Not Dead, about a girl who loses herself when she falls in love with a drummer in a high school punk band and attempts to find the new her in the midst of some heartbreaking news. I’m also drafting a contemporary women’s fiction piece called Debut, about a woman who gets the chance to live her dream life, doing her dream job and realizes that dreams and reality are pretty different. In the meantime she dates not so great guys and tries to break herself from repeating the same mistakes over and over.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I love dialogue and I craft it with as much realism as I can. Some of work reads like a screenplay, because the banter flows so well. I also like to have characters from small towns in out-of-the-way places.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I was a classroom teacher for a long time and I loved watching my students discover new books. Teachers often get into the habit of suggesting old books, or books with outdated characters and that can turn some kids off from reading, so I first set out to write books my students would like and could relate. I also read a ton of contemporary YA, so I write these books for myself, too.

4) How does my writing process work?

I get an idea and the draft it linearly. I don’t write out-of-order or in nonsequential scenes. I write beginning, middle, end. Second drafts are plotted a little more than first, because by then I know where I want the story to go. They’re usually complete rewrites, though. Third drafts and beyond are reordering and reworking scenes to tighten up the multiple story lines and answer any sticky or lingering questions I still have.

I also work with a writing critique group and their feedback through the process is VERY helpful.

Here’s where I’m supposed to link to the next people on the blog tour, but I didn’t actually recruit anyone. So instead, I’ll bid you adieu.

Holding Myself Accountable

Remember that last post about feeling underwhelmed once you finish writing something? Well, that was my life for the last three months, which is partially why you haven’t heard from me. But now I’m back (…from outer space). So here’s the run down:

!. Finished revising book

2. Sent it to writing group and friends for feedback. In the meantime I was going to read it again,  without trying to revise it, just read it through like a book.

3. Signed up for an Agent’s and Editor’s conference. 

4. About 25 pages I wanted to cry. It was not the story I wanted to tell. All that work, feeling like I was maybe close to done, Oh, the humanity!

5. Got great notes and feedback from my amazing writing friend, Candace.

6. Reevaluated story. Created quick outline of how it needed to be rewritten.

7. Started rewrite, excited about the new direction.

8. Then life happened. I started doing a lot of creative writing at work and felt tired and creatively spent at home. I didn’t make time for writing.

9. Got an email with my agent assignments. Realized I had very little time before I was supposed to pitch this story.

10. Started to have a nervous breakdown, not really, but maybe a little. 

11. Used the forums at She Writes to find an accountability partner. I was very productive during Nanowrimo when I emailed my accomplishments to my writing group everyday. With this insanely close deadline, I knew I needed to light the fire under my, ahem, laptop.

12. Found two amazing partners and have written everyday since then!

I’m now steadily developing the story I meant to write in the first 3 drafts. It’s an exciting time as I realize how much of a story there was, that I wasn’t telling. I’m so grateful for my writing group and my accountability partners. Knowing I needed to send the email every day has really made writing seem like less of an optional activity and more of something that’s nonnegotiable.

Revision, Revision, Let Down Your Golden Hair!

Four days into 2013 and I’ve upheld my goal to work on revising. My writing priorities have shifted from story-telling to story-fixing and it’s been an interesting process. So far, it’s not as painful I thought it would be. I thought making changes would be a lot more difficult for me. I’m not particularly stubborn or set in my ways and I usually don’t have trouble admitting I’m wrong, but there’s something about going back through your work and tearing it apart that seems like it could be a little disheartening and depressing. But it’s actually been a really positive experience so far.

The piece I’m revising was written in a month, during Nanowrimo. It’s a very rough draft, but I put a lot of work, thought, and frustrated energy into writing it. So as much as I want to say it’s good the way it is, I know that’s not true- characters disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again, the time line is wonky and subplots are started and then dropped. I let the muse take me the story where she wanted it to go and forgot my story outline basically as soon as I started writing the piece in order write what the cosmos dictated.  The cosmos, though, it seems, is not the most coherent story-teller. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but *whisper* I think the muse has ADD.

My revision process so far is not to rewrite anything just yet. Right now, I’m just rereading and commenting. Now that I know how the story begins, grows, and ends, I’m rereading to get an idea of what needs to change.  I’m working in a Word version of the manuscript, compiled from Scrivener. I’m doing 10 pages a day, which will take me forever, but it’s a manageable goal for now. I read the piece and make edits/line changes and additions if it’s just word or sentence or two.  If it’s a big idea, like a line of thought that needs to carry throughout the piece or a whole new scene I add a comment in the margin. It’s been an easy way to see quickly where I’ve dropped the ball. I have many comments that begin with “Again…” because I’ve already addressed the needed scene or storyline in several previous comments.

My plan is to get through this whole process before I meet with my critique group so that I have some clear revision ideas and questions about where to go from there.  I already have a lot of future ideas in mind, like the ending happens too quickly because I was on a deadline to finish and I know I need to develop the Mom and her boyfriend’s relationship throughout the story. But, I haven’t gotten there yet, so I’m trying to just focus on the ten pages that need work each day. I’ll keep you posted about my process and where I go next with it!

I’m a Survivor…(take 2)

So the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone. What do we do next? How do we live our lives without the end of the world looming? We prepare for the next apocalypse, of course. We throw ourselves in to being better people= better friends, better spouses, better parents, better coworkers, better neighbors, better puppy-mamas. We do this by re-evaluating what’s important in life and what accomplishments we’ve made in the meager lives we’ve lead thus far. And then we strive for better.

Huh. Apocalypse preparation sounds a lot like New Years Resolutions. Every year, I set New years goals. I’d rather strive to do something than resolve to do it. The verbage is just more inviting, The goals are all over the place, but I usually try to set goals that pertain to body wellness, mind wellness, heart wellness, and “soul” wellness. I put soul in quotes because I think we all define that word a little differently.

This year, like last, many of my goals have to do with writing. Last year I wanted to develop a writing habit and write a lot. And in reflection I really did. Sometimes it was easy, most of the time it was tough. But when I take stock of what I accomplished toward my 2012 writing goals, I feel proud. I am currently sitting on 8 pieces of writing in one stage of completion or another. Eight pieces of writing done in one year, while I worked full-time, and for most of the year worked as a classroom teacher, the most time-consuming job I can think of. It’s something to be proud of.  So here’s a recap of 2012 writing:

1 short story written, revised, edited, and submitted. Submission accepted and published in an online literary journal in May and then republished in a hard-copy anthology in July (https://www.createspace.com/3947262).

1 short story in draft phase, taken from a writing exercise I began a few years ago.

1 handwritten novel in draft form, perhaps 20-30,000 words done. This was the piece that propelled me into writing this year. I had this glimmer of an idea and then everywhere I went I heard news stories, saw movie titles, read articles about the topic. The universe was talking to me, loudly, so I listened. I’d love to get back to this piece soon, I’m just putting it off because of the dread of having to first read my messy draft scrawl and then having to type it out.

1 late-chapter book/ early middle grade story that is being revised with the help of my writing group. I picked this story up when I dropped the handwritten one. This was meant to be a picture book, but the character came alive to me, so I kept writing his story. I completed one draft of this, had a former student read it and give me some notes, then reworked it a little.  I’ve been working with my writing group on notes and am currently rewriting the beginning and trying to carry some of those new threads throughout the rest of the story.

1 middle grade stab at supernatural/ fantasy-ish. It’s probably 20,000 words in and then I got stuck. I have the story outlined, so I know where i want it to go, but I need to do more research on Salem and magical gems.

1 YA novel, draft 1 completed during Camp Nanowrimo in June.

1 adult-ish, I’ll admit veering dangerously close to chick-lit, novel started before Nano. One chapter, about 20 pages written.

1 YA novel, draft 1, completed during Nanowrimo in 2012. That’s a lie, 50,000 words of it were done in November. I kept writing it to bring the story to some sort of completion for my writing group. It’s currently in their hands. We have plans to spend the month of February revising our work together.

So, proud as I am about my first year of really trying at this writing thing, one big thing jumped out at me when I reflected on all this work. The word draftdraftdraft. I wrote a lot. I got caught up in story telling and embedded myself and my characters in new worlds and new activities, but I didn’t get past that fun part of making stuff up. So my 2013 writing goals are simple enough. Get over making stuff up and start making stuff better. This is my year of revision and editing. I’m going to rework, reimagine, rethink, reinvent, redraft, redefine, retell, and revise my little writer’s heart out this year.

The ultimate goal of all of this will be to get 4 pieces revised, redrafted, edited, and ready for submission by the end of the year. Next November, I’d like to be sitting down to write my Nanowrimo novel knowing that 4 of my novels are currently out there in the world being read and reviewed by people who could make publishing a reality.

Following My Bliss

So much has changed and so much remains the same.

In August, I left my teaching job. After 10 years of being a classroom teacher, I made a change.

For the last 3 months and some odd weeks I’ve worked for an educational software company. I was hired to write instructional content for the language arts portion of the software.  While the company was still deciding what that would look like, I was asked to consider applying to become the manager of the reading and language arts department. So I did and now I am. Without even doing the job I was technically hired to do, I’m now managing people who are doing that job.

Last week the company had layoffs. The grief I feel for my former coworkers currently outweighs the understanding of why it happened. I do get it, but I don’t get it and I certainly don’t like it. The corporate world is far different than the world of public education. I saw a lot of commonality at first, but now I’m feeling like I’m in a foreign land with no passport. I’m still working, I kept my job, but others didn’t. How do you weigh the sorrow versus the relief.

So I took to my notebook. I had to write it all out and let the ambiguous and contradictory feelings flow on paper. Thank the heavens for writing, clear train of thought or not, the ability to mind dump onto the page is a savior. As I wrote I came to one big realization.  What I’m doing in life is fleeting. I thought I’d teach forever. I thought I’d writing language arts lessons, I think I’ll manage (in more than one way). What I did realize is that if, and probably when, the same fate happens to me, I want to act with grace, dignity, and self-respect. I will be upset, no doubt, but I will hopefully look on it as a blessing.

With that in mind I went back to writing. I finished a story this summer, during the June CampNanoWriMo. I worked on editing it a little and then dropped it. I briefly considered doing CampNano in August, and then school started and then I left for my new job. Feeling a loss, my great friends Candace and Lizzie agreed to start a writing group with me. We decided to Skype one a month after sending each other 5 pages of a draft in order to get feedback and guidance.

I wasn’t ready to share my June piece, so I submitted the first part of my children’s chapter book “Raleigh.” I got great feedback and immediately felt reinspired to work on writing. I began redrafting the back story and beginning, with what I think are pretty good results. In October, Candace introduced us to her friend, Victoria, who was looking for a writing group. So now we’re four writers, with very different styles, but a whole lot of support for each other. Candace dabbles in realistic lit and romantic comedy-ish stuff, Victoria is working on romance and mystery pieces, Lizzie tends toward Supernatural YA and my recent pieces are more realistic YA, though Raleigh is a talking raccoon chapter book.

The four of did Nano this past month together. Every day we sent emails with word counts, musings, or grumblings. We made our writing intentions public to each other and it was a great motivator.

Over the past weekend when I thought about the layoffs and felt sad or cynical, I kept thinking about writing. Even though it’s tough and sometimes feels like work, it’s so endlessly rewarding. A string of thoughts that once only lived inside my brain can now be printed on paper. A plot, a character, an emotional quote that didn’t exist before my fingers set to the keys, are now things, they exist now in the world.

So writing will get me through. I have so much to work on and so much to do.  The events at work just highlighted the urgency that I need to bring to my writing. I must spend my time drafting, revising, editing, plotting, reading, thinking, writing. I want to bring my commitment to writing to the next level: submitting pieces to agents, finishing half done work, believing in myself.

So for public accountability, here’s my quarterly plan:

  • Finishing my Nano draft by Dec 14
  • Editing my Nano draft and sending to my writing group Dec 15
  • Whole month of Dec- Plotwrimo with Punx Not Dead Piece
  • End of Dec- Draft 2 of Raleigh
  • January- Draft 2 of Punx Not Dead
  • January- Revising Nano piece with Plot Wri Mo
  • February- Draft 2 of Nano piece
  • March- Have 3 pieces ready for submitting- Punx Not Dead, Raleigh, and Takes One to Know One
  • March- drafting Rose Quartz