March Recap

I had resolved to stop signing up for every challenge that came scooting across my browser, but then along came NaNoEdMo. I couldn’t resist. Though the official website is infected with bugs (don’t go there on my recommendation) the idea of counting my hours in editing and revision and comparing my progress with others was too tempting to pass up.

So I signed up.

As is my usual pattern, I was in a panic for half the month, and stockpiled hours like crazy. I hate losing challenges, and didn’t want to get caught behind because life has a way of cutting into my writing time in the most unexpected ways.Overtime at work. Migraine headaches. Car trouble. House repairs. That kind of stuff. So I had a buffer, and then a bigger buffer. Then I finished last Tuesday, five days early.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t overshoot the mark, and so I did slow down and ended up with fifty-three hours of editing in March.

I really can keep up, if I want to. I have to ask myself though, do I want to?

These last few days, since I’m ahead, and promised myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in it, I’ve been cutting my editing time back drastically. Yesterday I only did an hour, and then stopped. Tonight I will try to do just an hour and a half, and then stop.

Why?

Because I need to find that happy medium, where I can keep up with reading and critiquing, and side projects like writing short stories—and posting on my blog! If there is anything I should know by now, it is that consistent effort produces results, and I need to put in consistent effort into other areas besides the novel-writing.

Besides, I’m in a happy place with my novel now. I have most of the scenes planned out, most of them written, in fact, and just have to go through an editing pass patching in what I’ve figured out. My story is all grown up now.

Anything else this month?

I wrote a two thousand word short story in an hour. I was inspired, and just sat down and wrote it. I’ve never done that before.

I learned that I can get through a workday on five hours of sleep, but that I can’t do it two days in a row.

I learned that I can read a YA book in one day. (Catching Fire-Book Two of Hunger Games)

I learned that I need to take a day off here and there, or do just a little bit of writing, like my morning words, to keep the juices flowing.

And I need to stop comparing my progress to that of other writers.

All of it adds up to one Big Lesson for March: I learned how to do one thing at a time.

Barefoot

Once upon a time, before I ever thought I’d let anybody see this story, my heroine tucked a daisy behind her ear and kicked off her shoes. I still remember that day, because I was writing in my unlined sketch pad at the Seattle airport, with the sun shining through the five-story picture window where you can watch the planes take off and land.  It was one of those magical days in the beginning where, word by word and page by page, I fell in love with writing.

Many things have changed in this story since then, but my heroine is still barefoot and wearing daisies. This is one of the places she led me:

It was one of the first warm days after a long winter of cold and rain. Libra took her shoes off, and felt the cool cement floor of the sandwich shop beneath her toes, glad that her long skirt covered her feet. Some of the customers frowned on the waitresses walking around barefoot. Didn’t they understand, shoes were stuffy, they hurt your feet, it was so much more natural to be barefoot? Once the bras were burned, the shoes were the next to go.

That was enough to put Libra in a good mood, so when the young man sitting in the corner with a guitar propped up in the chair next to him smiled at her, she smiled back. Not that she usually smiled at strangers. It usually got her into trouble.

She sauntered up to him, avoiding his blatant stare. “Would you like to see a menu? Or are you just here for the view?”

He smiled, captivating, and seeming unused to being rebuffed said, “A beer for now. But keep the tab open, won’t you?”

“Sure thing…” Her feet betrayed her, wanting to stay, when her head told her she had other customers waiting.

She brought him the beer, frothing and chilly between her fingers. He directed her to set it at the end of the table, as far from the guitar he now held on his knee as she could. For the rest of the lunchtime rush he seemed preoccupied with his guitar and his pencil, making hasty scratches on his notebook. Sometimes he held the pencil in between his teeth while he played.

He wore one of those frilly white shirts, a poet’s shirt that some of the folk singers appropriated for their look. His sandy blond hair hung almost to his shoulders, in studied neglect. His skin was too smooth, his muscles too firm, to fully convince her that he hailed from the streets. Another pretender that drifted into the beaches of Venice attracted by the artist vibe, only to be driven away by the craziness. His boots gave him away. Fine Italian leather, smooth, polished, silver-buckled. Far too expensive for a person of the street.

A table full of bawdy fraternity kids kept her busy, calling her back because their french fries were cold, and to refill their seemingly bottomless mugs. They grabbed her sometimes, begging her to join them after her shift, and asked if they could have the daisy she wore tucked behind her ear. The worst part was, guys like this never tipped. They probably thought she liked serving them. Free love didn’t include not tipping the waitresses.

“I’ll take that hamburger now,” the young man with the guitar called as she walked past him, with considerably less bounce in her step than she had before lunchtime.

She spun to look at him. “I’ll be right with you.” She’d spoken too fast, and regretted it when she saw the disappointment in his eyes.

“Never mind then.” He was fitting the guitar back into its case with exquisite care, like one might handle a lady, or a delicate child.

“Sorry,” she said. She grasped the pockets of her apron, searching for the order pad. “It’s been one of those days.” She shook her head as she pulled the pad out of the bottom pocket, rifling through it to a new page.

“I’ll come back another day then.” He smiled distantly, his eyes on the grey ocean only a few hundred feet from the restaurant. The water was dotted with surfers on brightly colored boards, yellow and red and blue.

She closed her eyes, and breathed. She tried to concentrate, like she’d read in the Kama Sutra. Breathing, whispering her mantra. Sky. Picturing the blue expanse of nothing. Emptying the bad thoughts. “Please, stay? The place is empty now. I won’t be rushed.”

He seemed to consider her request. “A quarter pounder then. Well done, with everything, the works. Something easy.”

“Anything to drink with that?”

“Whatever you’re having will be perfect.”

A few minutes later, she returned with the plate, overflowing with french fries and an oversized hamburger and set it next to the two beers she’d brought on her last trip. Without meeting his eyes, she pulled out the wooden chair across from him and sat. Her feet thanked her instantly, the soles burning hot despite the cool weather.

He lifted the beer to his lips first. She didn’t follow suit and watched him drink from the corner of her eye, pretending to observe the surfers, standing on their boards, and then crashing, one by one, into the water.

“You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to,” he said. “We can pretend we already know each other.”

Stay tuned for part two!

Who Me? A Meme?

So it seems there’s this meme going around, and A Scenic Route has been nominated. Such a statement would only make sense to someone familiar with the blogosphere, so I’ll explain.

Blogger extraordinaire, Jamie Ayres keeps up with all the latest trends, and has noticed my little blog and given me an opportunity to play along with the Lucky 7 Meme. The rules of this game are:

-Go to page 77 of your manuscript, count down seven lines or seven sentences. Then, post these on your blog.

So, here it is, exactly what I found when I opened to page 77:

Though the years had not been kind to Dr. Leonard Milo, Libra wished with all her heart she’d stayed behind and not followed William’s siren song into the netherworld.

She watched as Nicholas shook hands with the producer, though Nick’s posture suggested resignation not resolve. Nick started making his way towards the bar, greeting fans with staged enthusiasm. Libra knew his heart wasn’t in it. She knew from the stoop in his shoulders, from the way his gaze avoided his fans’ and the preoccupied way he answered their questions. He’d been this way before. When she knew him in life.

-Tag 7 other authors, and let them know they’re it!

Seven?! Okay, I think I can do that…well, maybe six…it’s getting late. And some of you only know me from the Write A Book With Me blog.

Anyway, I’d love to take a peek at:

Prue at What’s It All About? An even more dedicated writer than I am, your persistence, fortitude and talent is a constant source of inspiration to me.

Kristina Stanley at Kristina Stanley-The Writing and Cruising Lifestyle: Sailing and Writing–what’s not to like? Congrats on submitting ‘Burnt’ to your agent!

Roxanne Crouse at Roxanne Crouse Writer: Congrats on releasing your story ‘Fortune’!

Janet Walters at never2late2write: Keep those riveting excerpts coming!

‘Armchairauthor’ at Ink: Always something new and entertaining, from book reviews to novel nuggets, currently editing her completed novel ‘The Grove’

Mike Schulenberg at Mike Schulenberg-Realms of Perilous Wonder: You said it would be okay if I tagged you! Muw-hahaha…

You guys are all the best, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to in your writing. And thanks again, Jamie Ayres, for including me in the fun!

The Lost Letter

I thought I had put this letter up here months ago, so when  fellow blogger and How To Revise Your Novel student, Mike Schulenberg asked if we had any blog posts to share I jumped right in with these. “I do, I do!” I called, as I waved my hand in the air. To my dismay, I searched the blog for the last in the series to find I had never posted it.

With my apologies for yet another casualty to the madness that is NaNoWriMo, I submit to you Teragus Swansong’s response to my frantic last-minute queries, leading up to my National Novel Writing Month project, ‘The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles: Book One-A Crown of Thorns.’

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The Year of Our Mission: Three hundred and Thirty Five

Lunar Month Lilac, Day Twenty Five

Dear Fair Lady Larke,

My doubts, however slight they may have been, about your ability to tell this story have been laid to rest. My persistent skepticism with Rigel’s recommendations is fully to blame, and for that I am sorry.

Your suggestion that I peruse my own records with regards to the location of the plans for the sun room modifications was quite perceptive, as I had utterly forgotten that I had borrowed them for that purpose. I have forwarded them for your research and hope that you find them helpful.

I have also followed your advice regarding my consumption of animal products, particularly those of beef and pork extraction, and once again forsworn the rich meats I have been indulging in for the past few moons. My digestive system thanks you for your thoughtful response.

I must press you, fair lady, for any news of my dear daughter. It has been long since I was subjected to a separation from a loved one, other than that from my wife Avery. It pains me greatly to be without my dear Cerule’s laughter and sharp wit. Therefore, if you could find a moment in your communications with Rigel to pass along a few kind words from her father, I would be greatly in your debt.

I continue to bear my troubled conscience with a heavy heart, but will heed your wise counsel, and rejoice in my mortality, as I try to revel in the fleeting ephemeral that is the present.

As always, I remain your most humble servant,

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Teragus Swansong

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How do your characters communicate with you? Do they send letters? Emails? Smoke signals?

The 'Editor' Strikes Back

The Inner Editor, that is. And for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support group, I would like to introduce my own Inner  Demon Editor.

I used to think that since my Muse—despite his disturbing affinity for black eyeliner— is a man, that my Inner Editor would be a man as well. Sometimes I even imagined I could hear his voice—the voice of that ex-boyfriend who always warned me I would get fat if I ate the last piece of pizza he had his eye on.

But, as I thought about it some more, I realized that my Inner Editor is a woman. A beautiful woman, in fact. One that knows how to dress, and wears designer suits in a size 2. Her hair is always perfect too, always impeccably styled, sometimes twisted up in one of those sexy chignons. Her make-up is shiny in all the right places, matte where she needs to hide any imperfections—not that she has any of those. Her matching jewelry sparkles when she waves her hands around, and her rings catch the light as she points out my shortcomings.

Of course, I want to be just like her. I want to be her friend so she can tell me where she gets those great
suits, and have her show me how to put my make-up on so that it doesn’t melt the minute I step out the door. I want her to tell me where she gets those fantastic shoes.

At the same time, I know that I will never be as perfect as she is. Even if I get my hands on one of the suits, and shimmy into that pencil skirt, I will certainly spill tomato sauce on it the instant I sit down to eat lunch. My skin is way too blotchy to pull off that red lipstick. And my hair pretty much does whatever it feels like doing, depending on the weather, and so can’t be counted on to conform to any rigid style I might have in mind for it.

Most of the time when I’m trying to kick out some first draft, the Inner Editor behaves herself, and goes quietly about her business of correcting spelling and dialogue punctuation. She’s seen what the unrestrained Muse is capable of, and knows to stay out of his way.

It’s when I’m revising that she gets out of hand.

A few weeks ago she made a particularly snide comment. In my efforts to revise my first novel, I’m taking an online class, called, not surprisingly, How to Revise Your Novel. It’s a great class, but it’s a good thing the course is self-paced because I am taking my sweet time getting through it. In fact, the title of my blog is a reference to my frustration at going back and across and over every concept at least twice until I get it right.

As I was contemplating what it might feel like to actually be done with this course, taking three times as long as it should, and still not having the manuscript complete, because I have some ideas to make it much, much better, the Inner Editor informed me in her haughty voice,

“If you were taking this course in college, you’d be getting a failing grade.”

I promptly told her to keep it to herself, though I had to wonder why she would say something like that.

I thought about how strange it would be to get a grade for a course like this, where writers of all levels are working through the lessons at their own pace, and realized that what mattered more than any grade was how much knowledge I gained from it. Knowledge is hard to quantify, which is probably why it’s convenient to rely on measurements like page counts, scenes edited, or lessons completed, and why I search for something like a grade to prove I have made progress.

Grades and progress bars can be helpful in measuring achievement, but I think these need to be employed with caution–especially by insecure writers like me. Measurements like this give the Inner Editor a chance to bully me, and make me feel bad.

I don’t write to feel bad. I write because it’s fun!

Once I understood that, I patiently explained to the Inner Editor that I have made huge progress, but that, considering what I started with, getting this novel to be a better novel was going to be a long journey for me. She was welcome to come along, but she would have to resign herself to watching me mess up once in a while.

She sighed at that. But, apparently satisfied with the progress I’ve already made, she kicked off those fancy shoes, and leaned back on her black leather office chair in exasperation. We ordered a pizza, with everything on it–onions and pepperoni and extra sauce– for just the two of us.

Things were about to get a little messy.

What does your Inner Editor do to make you feel bad? How do you get him–or her–to cooperate?

For the Alex J. Cavanaugh Insecure Writer’s Group blog hop, follow this link.