The Pictures In My Head

Why do I write? Really?

In the beginning, before I ever thought I’d even finish a book draft, I wrote for the pictures the words made in my head. Here’s one that found me only yesterday:

The Muse lies on his back with his raven-feathered wings spread out to both sides over the moonlit grass. He plays his guitar, its black metallic finish reflecting the starry sky, as he watches the galaxies spin in the firmament above us. I listen and I write, translating his thoughts, his wry observations and his whimsy into words.

Sometimes, when the clouds roll in and lightning splits the sky, he stands behind me, holds his hands against my face, and makes me look when I’d rather look away—when I don’t want to feel anymore. When I’d rather sleep, or drink, or run away to kill the pain, he says,

“Look, listen, weep if you must, but live. You only have one shot at this life. Make it count—for me—because though I’m imaginary, I am the only part of you that has a chance to live forever.”

*Sniff*

“Can I stop now?” I ask him.

“You may. But, please, for me, soon, words? In a dark room, just you and I?”

“For you, Muse, anything.”

What kind of pictures have your words sent you? Does your Muse chase you into dark rooms?

In a programming note:

I’m excited to announce that I will be posting more regularly here, as I am winding down my other blog. ‘Write A Book With Me’ has moved back to its founder, Holly Lisle, and I’ve decided one blog is plenty for me! Stay tuned for shorter posts two to three times a week (this is the scenic route, remember? So no hustle!), commenting on my progress or lack thereof, alternating with miscellaneous literary observations fitting into my theme of ‘Postcards from my Journey into Noveldom.’

And what is this ‘Noveldom’ I speak of and that annoys the heck out of spell check?

My noveldom is a place where anything can happen. People can travel faster than the speed of light. Science can discover cures for horrid diseases. My noveldom is populated by birds and music and warm starry nights on beaches where sand sinks between your toes. Here, in my world, good can triumph over evil. Love can last forever.

Let’s explore it together, shall we? What lies in your noveldom?

April Is A Good Month For Writing

Here it is, the end of another month, and time for another scintillating report on my progress. I’m pleased to announce that something magical happened this month. Not the earth-shattering, oh-my-gosh, I’m published, kind of something, but something more subtle, as if the ground beneath my feet has steadied to make my steps more sure as I go on.

I know I’ve written ad nauseam about my time management issues in the previous months, and in the middle of this month I had what felt like a meltdown in terms of having so many projects that I simply felt I could no longer keep up.

Then something happened. I began to see with clarity the amount of time each of my endeavors takes up.

  • I know it takes me twenty minutes to do my morning words.
  • I know that it takes me between an hour and a half to two hours to revise a scene.
  • I know that I can spend an hour in the blogosphere and catch up with pretty much everyone I like to hang out with.
  • I know it takes me about two hours to critique a two thousand word chapter.
  • I know that I can spend way too much time in the Holly Lisle forums, and that I need to be careful not to get caught up in that, even though I learn a lot there.
  • I know it takes me about two hours to put together a decent post for A Scenic Route.

Anyway, the key to this revelation was that, since my time is limited, knowing how long each task takes gives me the power to decide which project to engage. It probably sounds obvious, that I need to choose what to work on, but knowing how much each choice will cost me in terms of time makes this so much easier to manage.

So, based on that, I’ve cut back somewhat on my posts at Write A Book With Me, so that if I post on A Scenic Route I don’t post there, because posting on two blogs in one day seems like an unreasonable amount of effort. I’ve cut back to doing one critique per week, and let my critique partners know that I’ve done this in order to devote more time to my revision. I’ve set a timer on my blog activities. I’ve devoted mornings and morning words to developing the plot on my next book, the first book of The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles trilogy.

It seems to be working out really well, because most of the time when I am writing I am deliriously happy.

Then, this month, I finally got started on the second pass of my revision. With scene one.

Even though I had detailed notes at my side, and scene cards with comments about what I need to change in each scene, as well as a calendar with the dates and times of each scene, and a list of how each character talks, it was intimidating to start back in on this, since I have already worked so hard on it and am about to tear it to pieces again.

As a concession to my nerves, I made a back up of the entire draft and put it away. This way I felt I
had a safety net before I started hacking away at this again. It was like planting a flag in the ground, to mark my progress and saying, “This is how far I’ve come. It can’t get any worse than this.”

My first scene was a light editing scene, so all I had were changes in the timeline, the setting, and a character slated for a personality tune-up. Once I started working on it, writing the changes in the margins and the back of the manuscript I became profoundly aware that I really am making improvements on what came before. My pen seemed to be ahead of my brain sometimes, as if I had put on a pair of X-ray goggles and could suddenly see the parts of my prose that weren’t working; where a sentence slowed down the pace, where a character needed to stop for breath before his next sentence, or where a piece of description was needed to fill out the setting.

Got my X-Ray Editing Shades

In other words, in the course of my persistence, I have learned something.

I was so proud of that first scene, that I wanted to hold these words to my heart and sing, “Mine all mine!” I know there will be scenes in this revision that won’t make me feel quite as buoyant when I finish, but having this one feel so right is a big step for me.

The biggest lesson for this month then: I really am learning something as I plug away at this every day!

Have you ever had a moment when you knew, this was the best scene, the best chapter, or even the best sentence, you’ve written so far?

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!

January Recap

I’ve decided to try something new here this year, as a way to plot my progress. At the end of each month I’m going to try to sum up what I’ve accomplished in the month, kind of like a NaNoWriMo, but instead of tearing through fifty thousand words with reckless abandon, only to decide that wasn’t such a good idea at the end of the month, I will try to make the equivalent of a word counter for all my writing related activities.

Ah, first draft, wouldn’t I just love to do another one of those…but I digress. So here they are, accomplishments for January:

  • Lesson Eighteen of the How to Revise Your Novel Course is now behind me. My progress in that course has been positively glacial, and assuredly not for lack of effort on my part. The results so far have been worth it, but still, each lesson crossed off is a milestone for me.
  • I put up the first chapter of ‘The Tempest’s Serenade’ for critique at Critique Circle. That was hard for me. I couldn’t sleep the whole night before it went up, firmly convinced that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. No need to tell me, I know—it doesn’t make sense, but I have to be honest about my feelings if I’m to be a writer, and that is what I felt. Some of the critiques I got, by the way, nearly knocked me off my chair. I learned a lot from this experience and am eager to continue putting chapters up.
  • This is a less quantifiable achievement, but feels every bit as important to me. I finally filled in some holes in my revision that I had serious doubts I would ever get right. Well, I got them so right it astounded even me. I discovered, in a nutshell, why this book is so important to me and why I am writing it now. The book is about my present, older, self talking to my younger self, trying to figure out whether I’ve made the right choices in my life. There are other implications as well, our present state of affairs in the US of A, versus what came before, but since I’m not particularly interested in being preachy, I’ll let the story speak for me and leave that open to interpretation. Whew, didn’t mean to get heavy here, but my point is, lots of progress in meaning, theme and world building.
  • I took a challenge at 750 words.com to see if I could write 750 words every single day this month, and, if I write my words tomorrow, I will win this little badge. Isn’t it cute?
  • Speaking of writing every day, I posted three and sometimes four times a week at the Write A Book With Me blog, where I post my progress on my revision. That has been one of my biggest challenges. Hitting that publish button and knowing that my words are going out to twenty-odd followers (don’t laugh, please, those seem like a lot of followers for me!) is one of the scariest and exciting writing challenges I’ve conquered this year.
  • And, finally, I got up the nerve to take a look at my NaNo from 2011, Dragon’s Milk-Crown of Thorns, because I was firmly convinced it was awful. (See above: Submitting chapter for critique) I discovered it’s not awful. It needs revision, but it’s not even close to awful, in fact, I couldn’t stop reading it. I think I’ve got the ‘write for yourself’ thing down, at least.

It might be a good idea to sum up what I’ve learned from each month’s achievements, and for this month, what I learned might be obvious from reading the above list.

I need to learn to say NO!

I can’t do everything at once, so I need to start narrowing down my projects. Not quite sure how to do that right now, but it’s something to shoot for.

To those of you still reading, what were your achievements this month? What did you learn from them?

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(Image courtesy of Cecile Graat @ stock.xchng)

Write a Book with Me

When I first started writing all I had was a story, one that didn’t even know it wanted to be a novel, much less that I would have to be the one to write it. Like many newbie writers, I turned to the internet for guidance in my quest to get it written. Fortunately for me, I landed on a blog called Write a Book with Me and there, in the company of writers of all levels, moderated by the witty and passionate Holly Lisle, I managed to land my novel safely on the runway of my finished first draft.

The central concept behind Write a Book with Me was that writing a smallish amount of words consistently over time produces big results. A novel is a huge project, but when broken down into smaller parts-a few hundred words here, a scene there-it can be completed in a timely fashion. Holly Lisle did her writing in five hundred word increments each day, writing five days a week, and suggested this pace to intermediate writers. Beginning writers could jump in at two hundred and fifty words a day and still expect results. But regardless of which goal they chose, participants would report their word counts daily on the blog and add a few notes about the what they wrote – perhaps what kind of mood they were in when they wrote, and any breakthroughs or milestones along the way.

We finished novels this way, lots of them. As each writer crossed the finish line the rest of us cheered. It was a great group to be involved with.

I am proud and a bit nervous to announce that I have taken the helm of this project, which was one of the seminal events in my very new writing endeavor. I certainly can’t claim to have gained enough wisdom at this point to give the kind of advice Holly Lisle did in her version of this project, but what I can do is try to round up writers so that we can keep each other company on our novel writing adventures. I’m hopeful that it may become the kind of experience for others as it was for me, where I saw writers confront obstacles and overcome them, learning from their mistakes, as they might learn from mine.

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re a writer, take a peek at Write a Book with Me and see what we’re up to over there!

(Image courtesy of Felipe Wiecheteck @ stock.xchng)