According to my sources (that would be a Twitter hashtag), in about three weeks’ time, there will be another #MSWL Twitter event. For those unfamiliar with it, the letters stand for ManuScript Wish List, and from time to time, agents and editors will designate a day to tweet details of what they would like to show up their slush piles (though some tweet whenever they feel the urge, throughout the year).
Writers who follow the hashtag throughout the day can see if anyone is looking for the kind of manuscript (ms) they’re writing, and the tweeting agents and editors have a much higher probability of snagging a ms that hits their sweet spot. Everybody wins! Unless, like me, you’re not ready to query.
For those of us who haven’t quite got our mss up to snuff, #MSWL day can be agonizing. On the one hand, how can you look away—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You’ll want to know who that agent or editor is so you can query when the ms is polished! On the other hand, how can you watch—what if someone’s list matches your ms to perfection? You can’t query that agent or editor until your ms is polished!
It’s not like I have any illusions about my current ms. Much as I like my story, I’ve no idea if it will actually appeal to an audience wider than my closest friends and family. And all sorts of folks will tell you they had to write something like a dozen novels (and query ten of them) before even getting an agent, let alone a book deal. So I know the odds of getting this sucker onto the shelves are about as good as those of winning the lottery. But I want desperately to try anyway.
So come 26 February (the next “official” #MSWL day), I’ll be watching the tweets roll in, pondering my own simple, single-item manuscript wish list: get it finished!
Mother Nature hates me.
Every time I think I’m about to get some time to myself again, another “polar vortex” bears down on us and makes the local environment so deadly the school district (wisely) decides to cancel classes, and I have my kiddos at home. This wreaks havoc on my concentration.
And just as there is ramp-up time to get yourself in a groove after you’ve spent time perusing social media (or whatever other procrastination techniques you prefer), I’ve found I have ramp-up time on a larger, daily scale, as well. I’m still not back into a “school’s in session” frame of mind; I’ve not been there since mid-December.
Experienced writers often tell aspiring writers that the only rule is to write! Sit down every day and get on with it. That’s the only way to succeed. Well, at this rate, I’m doomed to failure. I simply have not been able to carve out a sufficient block of time to get into that key headspace more than once or twice a week—and very small blocks they are, at that!
Yet I take perverse comfort in posts such as Kameron Hurley’s recent treatise on persistence. Do I write daily? No. Am I making consistent progress on my manuscript? No. Do I keep coming back to it? Yes. So maybe it will take me untold years to get this thing up to snuff (ye gods & little fishes, I hope not…), but I will finish it. And then I’ll move onto something else. And that something else will be better. And so will the next thing, and the next, and the next.
So I’m off, back to the Word Mines. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s really no place I’d rather be.
Writing conditions have not improved much since my last post. It’s been very difficult to carve out any sort of workable block of time in which to sit down and get on with it. I’ve managed to get some older pieces revised (again) and passed on to my CPs for comments, though, so that’s a step in the right direction.
The big deal about moving past those chapters for the moment is that I’m now free to refocus on the climax of the story. My final three chapters, such as they are, need polish on the mechanics (kill all the weak verbs!), and some PlotSpackle™ and sanding to make them match the changes made in the rest of the manuscript to date. My major challenge, though, comes in that quiet spot in between.
You see, I’m in need of an additional chapter; too much has been left unsaid. When all the build-up comes to a head at the end of that last chunk my CPs are reviewing, the reader will hopefully be eager to flip the page and find out how my protagonist takes this new revelation and runs with it. Unfortunately, on the next page she’s already executing A Plan without the reader having been let in on everything she knows.
Obviously, I need to write “Chapter Interstitial.”
What makes the composition of this chapter such a challenge for me is that it’s being created in a manner totally new and alien to my normal modus operandi. Having created the original draft in true NaNoWriMo “pantser” tradition (that is, I didn’t plot it out ahead of time, but just wrote by the seat of my pants), and revised from existing text, only adding or subtracting scenes as discussion with my CPs indicated it was necessary, I feel completely unprepared to write an entire chapter that needs to include specific information and plot points. It’s rather unnerving.
So this week, I’ve not yet done much in the way of actual writing, but I’ve begun expanding my notes. I’ve listed what else the reader needs to witness before barreling into the following chapter, from character motivations to background details to the foundations of that Plan. I’ve even done a little arranging where I think each part should appear relative to the others. Pretty much everything I need is there now—I just need to write it.
If I keep telling myself that, it’ll happen, right?
Yesterday, after more than two and a half weeks away, I finally sat down to work on revising my novel again. Focus was difficult, to say the least. I hopped up and down from my desk—and back and forth from task to task—so often it’s a minor miracle I didn’t get motion sickness.
Each time I tried to go back to the passage I was rewriting and tried to smear some PlotSpackle™ into that hole, it turned out I’d not put enough on my putty knife, and there was still a big divot to be filled. I’d walk away, dealing with some piddly chore or another, and come back again, trying desperately to make my atrophied brain perform.
After hours and hours of this behavior, I finally had a big enough lump of PlotSpackle™ in place to start sanding it smooth. As many new words as stayed got cut, and in the end, I had only added a little more than two hundred words to the piece. And I’ll tell you what: I will gladly take two hundred hard-fought words that may or may not ultimately end up in the Dumpster.
Those two hundred words tasted like victory.
Unlike the last gap between posts, this one has not been productive. Holiday celebrations and other such Real Life minutiae (most notably kids being home from school) completely took over my writing time. Today I finally have time to get back to work, but other things are plaguing me instead.
About a year and a half ago, I took a leap of faith and quit my part-time job. I had been spending full time hours on it, and getting a lot more stress than money out of the transaction. Given that it was primarily a supplemental income for our household, we felt we could afford the tradeoff of mental health for cash.
Turns out we were wrong.
Yesterday—New Year’s Day—we spent most of the day reviewing our budget for the past year, and looking ahead. The message that glared out at us was that something needs to change. Essentially, it’s time for me to gird my loins and wade back into the job market.
What’s that mean for my writing? Well, time will tell. My gut feeling, though, is that the experiment has failed. We tried having a full-time writer in the family, and it just isn’t sustainable. And once I can get back to paying work, I suspect my writing gig is history; I simply cannot do the work that needs to be done without significant alone time during the day (nighttime writing doesn’t work for me).
So I don’t know what 2014 will bring for my dryad and her kin. I may or may not reach my goal of finishing the manuscript and sending out queries. I guess I’ll just have to make the most of what little time I have left with no job but writing.
Wow… Where did the last five weeks go?
When I last posted, I was reeling from the havoc having surgery had wreaked on my NaNoWriMo plans. Since then, I persevered and squeaked in a “win” under the wire (with four hours of editing left to do on the last day of the month, I completed them with about three-and-a-half hours to spare); written consistently for my other, almost three-year-old blog; and kept up (barely) with my family’s schedule of travel, health issues, and various extracurricular activities.
So what’s the state of my novel, you may ask? Thanks to the huge amount of work I put in during November, it’s getting much closer to the end of Round Two major revisions. No, I’m not going to make it by the end of the year like I told my Editor (oops). However, at our most recent meeting, my CPs told me that the third of my four subsections is working pretty well. There’s pacing! There’s clear motivation! There’s characterization! It was quite a rush to realize I was nearing the finish line on those chapters.
Of course, there’s still work to do. As we were leaving, one CP mentioned that the second subsection still had some more serious issues to resolve, so my Optimistic outlook was summarily downgraded back to Cautiously Optimistic. Looking over her notes, though, I don’t think there’s anything insurmountable there. In fact, the suggested changes are drastically less severe than the ones I’ve already made. I dare to hope that I’m making something akin to real progress.
Speaking of progress, those last, frantic hours of NaNoWriMo led to some conceptual breakthroughs for my finale. There’s an entire extra, interstitial chapter for me to write now, linking the end of that third subsection and the beginning of the fourth. Finding a balance between polishing what’s already there and creating new material has been a challenge, but I’ve approached it like much of the rest of the revision process: identify something that makes me want to work on it, and milk that for all it’s worth.
If I can ride this I’m-making-progress high through the end of the year, I might actually get this revision in the can by the end of January! Now I just need you readers to hold me accountable…
Last year I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was awesome. Seeing that stats chart every day, with the little line to beat in order to meet the challenge was exactly what my brain needed to thrive. I pushed myself, got off to a strong start, and never looked back. I stayed ahead of the curve the whole month, even when I had to take a few days off near the end due to a family health emergency.
Well, this year’s different. First, I’m doing hours of editing instead of words written. That wasn’t really an issue, though. I got off to another strong start, averaging nearly 2.5 hours per day (my equivalent of 2500 words) for the first six days or so. But getting ahead early just wasn’t enough.
Last week, I went in for surgery. It was a scheduled surgery, something I knew was coming, and shouldn’t involve an arduous recovery. It was still surgery. And it kept me from doing any novel editing for two days. I only got in a half an hour on the third day, none again on the fourth, and only an hour on the fifth. Needless to say, I’m now quite a way behind the curve.
This is where that little motivational progress line backfires. “I’m already so far behind; how will I ever catch up now?” my jerkbrain asks.
“Well, you’ll never even have a chance if you don’t sit down and do something,” practical brain replies.
They go at it back and forth, bringing in points about other things that need to be done around NaNoWriMo, too: grocery shopping, a book review, bill paying… I still don’t know which one of them is going to win by the end of the day.
For now, though, they’re both losers. “Nap. Now!” bellows recuperation brain.
If you need me, I’ll be huddled under my down comforter.
I’ve really been wanting to find a way to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Initially, I’d thought—extremely naïvely, in retrospect—that I could draft Book #2 this November. (It’s a sure sign you’re a n00b when you think you can get from a NaNoWriMo draft to a query-ready manuscript in a couple of months.)
As NaNoWriMo 2013 has crept up on us, it’s become ever clearer to me that drafting a new book at this stage would be a fool’s errand. The one I have in mind is a sequel to my current work in progress; beginning it before this one’s done is risky at best, and disastrous at worst. No new NaNo draft this time!
Yet I got so much out of it last year, I really wanted to participate again. I thought perhaps I could find a way to count words of my revisions instead, but I don’t expect to completely rewrite everything I’ve got, and there’s no way I’ll be adding another 50k words to the current count.
Then it hit me: editing hours!
I don’t recall where I’d seen the idea, but I know it wasn’t my own. Since mature artists steal, I thought I was well within my rights to use it (even if I’m not a mature artist yet). So this year, I’m not going to measure the success of my NaNo month by whether or not I reach 50k words, but whether or not I reach 50 hours of editing.
Keeping track on the site will require a brief daily calculation, using the conversion rate of 1 hour editing time = 1000 words written. Each day I’ll have to add onto the previous total to get my running total for the month, rather than just reading a word count off my document, but I think it’ll be worth it. If I can actually dedicate that much time to the revisions which so desperately need to be done, I have a real chance of getting Round Two of major revisions done before December.
Now that’s an exciting prospect!
Engineer new plot direction #1: check!
When my CPs and I sat down a few weeks ago and had a long discussion about how to improve the plot from where it sat in my latest draft, there were a heckuva lot of new elements to incorporate. I was so energized (and overwhelmed!) by that conversation that I could hardly wait to get back to work. The overall story would be so much better after all these enhancements had been integrated into the novel!
Then Real Life got the better of me, as it is prone to do. Partway into my foray into the first plotting change, I got derailed by a combination of daily minutiae, big news in my fandom of choice, and the introduction of a new dog into our family. Suddenly fixing the transition from the first to second acts paled in comparison to getting bills paid on time, watching recovered episodes not seen in forty-five years, and snuggling with a ridiculously cute canine.
Finally I carved out time to get back to it. Now I had to be conscious of the new perspective from which I was writing, but for the most part, it was the change in direction I’d hashed out with my CPs at the heart of the revisions. It’s amazing how a relatively small change propagates throughout one’s manuscript. ~sigh~
But I’ve done it! I’ve made that first big change and polished up the beginning chapters of the novel to send back to my CPs for review. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ve done enough, and I can finally—finally—put Part the First behind me for Round Two of major revisions. Because I have just made it back into a groove.
I’m ready to write.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with an idea. Being completely new to the industry from the content-provider’s side of things, it’s only recently that I’ve paid any attention to SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, a professional organization for authors). I’ve been seeing a lot about the need for diversity in the genre (specifically, via the Twitter hashtag #DiversityinSFF), which got me thinking about my own work in progress (WIP).
As is stands, my WIP has a main character (MC) who is a straight, white, cisgendered, abled, educated, young American woman. In other words, she’s very much like me (with the possible exception of the “young” descriptor, since she’s 10-15 years my junior). So I’ve been wondering: does she have to be all of those things? Is there any reason not to change one or more of those descriptors?
More importantly, is there any reason to change one?
Because I am a brand, spankin’ new writer, working on my first-ever novel, it’s only natural—comfortable—that I would choose to write from the POV of someone very like myself. Writing is hard enough without throwing in something with which I have zero personal experience. “Write what you know,” and all that.
But as I analyzed the story I hope to tell with this character after my current WIP is done (or as “done” as it’s likely to get), it dawned on me that there is a fairly compelling reason to consider changing her ethnic background for the next book. Obviously, that means I’d need to change it now. Is it worth it?
I brought this conundrum to my CPs for advice. We talked about the pros and cons, and in the way I’m developing my particular “near Earth” world for the future of my character. We talked about the dangers of “getting it wrong” (which, let’s be honest, boil down to whether or not I do my research), and how it would serve the upcoming story if I did change my MC.
Oddly, it turned out changing my MC to someone with a different background from mine might actually enhance the tension in my current WIP, too. There’s nothing specifically that hinges on her being a POC—which makes sense, since that’s not how I first wrote her—but certain relationships and situations would, of necessity, affect her differently, coming from an alternate perspective.
My original intention was to challenge my own tendencies to write someone almost exactly like myself, try writing outside my comfort zone, and maybe help add a bit of diversity to the body of work in the genre. If I can do my MC justice as a woman of color, I really think this WIP will be richer for it.
I just hope I hope I don’t screw up.