The More Things Change…

It’s been a while. Life and all that stuff is my excuse. I’ve been writing and making wonderful progress. Both YA novels are in some form of revision and I’m pretty happy with the direction they both took. I meet with a writing critique group twice a month. They’ve offered invaluable advice and support. I’ve kept up the habit of writing everyday, usually about 1100 words. So writing is good.

Actually, writing is great.

And that’s where my life is changing. I’m beginning to feel a distinct calling to do more writing work. I’ve been reaching out to friends who freelance and getting their advice on building my own writing portfolio and maybe starting a little writing work on the side. Today I took major steps toward that interest. I offered to do some volunteer writing and I answered a posting online looking for blog writers. Nothing may come of either, but in the end I made that small tiptoe toward a calling I feel.

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Auld Lang Syne

Here was today’s writing prompt from Writing a Sacred Path’s Review and Renew Course:

Write about your goals, achievements, disappointments, and triumphs over the past year. Allow yourself to grieve the disappointments—but don’t forget to celebrate the successes! Vent, mourn, cheer, and rejoice on the page. Raise a metaphorical glass to the things that went well and tell the things that didn’t go so well. Whatever you do, don’t despair if things didn’t go as planned. This whole course is about starting a new year in 2014!

Here’s what I wrote. None of this is new or a surprise to you, if you’ve read the blog before. I’ve been over most of these events in the past year, but putting it all together makes me realize how much I did accomplish in one year:

In 2013 I redrafted Takes One to Know One twice, first with feedback from my writing group and then after rethinking some of the major plot issues. I revised and edited the last draft and pitched it to agents at the Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference. An agent was interested in Takes One to Know One and asked about other Contemporary YA that I’ve written, so I explained the concept behind Punx Not Dead. She also wanted to see that manuscript. I panicked because I hadn’t picked up that story in over a year. So for the summer I tried writing the new draft using a Beat Sheet. In theory, it seemed like a great idea, but in practice, for me, it was far too stifling. I decided to stop working on the story because I’d lost hope that there was anything I could do to fix it. In August I did CampNanoWrimo with my writing group. I wrote Halls of Righteouness, which is a YA Thriller. I got my 50,000 words done, but that novel is sitting unfinished because by the end of summer I was ready to get back to Punx Not Dead. Around the same time that I realized I needed to get back that writing, a woman I’d met at the agent’s conference emailed me out of the blue to see if I was still interested in joining a critique group. We’ve been meeting every other week since October and it’s been an incredibly valuable experience. I’ve written three short stories, all of which I think have potential to be submitted and published. I’ve also been extremely motivated to finish Punx Not Dead, so I can get both YA novels out the door and into the hands of an agent.

I started 2013 with lofty writing goals and, though I didn’t actually achieve any of them, I feel like I made pretty good progress. I work fulltime, am a member of more than one book club, try to stay active and work out, and have a husband and dogs to care for. Making time for writing was a priority that waxed and waned throughout the year, but during those times when I wasn’t writing, I was very aware of something missing in my life and I always came back to writing.

Now, in December I’m back in a writing upswing. I didn’t do Nanowrimo, exactly this year, what I tried to do was just write a little everyday, to get back into the writing habit. I followed through for about 2 weeks and then fell out of habit. I’m trying to pick it up again, even if it’s just a few hundred words, or even if it’s just a response to the Writing a Sacred Path course, like this. At least I’m writing, and my manuscript will get there when it gets there. I’d been so consumed with working so quickly that I burnt out once. Hopefully I’ll find a comfortable, sustainable rhythm from here on out.

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.