Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Writer at War

I woke up this morning with words in my head.  Since I wrote the final sentence of LitD, such beautiful words have not occurred to me.  I think part of the reason is because I've felt rather uncreative lately.  Since the end of February, my predominant focus has been pulling apart every single thought Celia has and every sentence the others speak.  Should Celia use a contraction here?  Would the young man answer this question in a monosyllable? Should I use the word grip or clasp to describe this action?   After hours upon hours of new sentences, these decisions all feel...anticlimactic.

Don't get me wrong.  Picking apart every last sentence and word is important.  There is nothing I like worse than reading a book and becoming too distracted by the poor word choice and unintentional sentence fragments to enjoy what might otherwise be an engaging plot.  I need to do it.  I need to do it so when you read LitD you can focus on Celia and not the spinach between her teeth.

So when new words began to play in my mind--exciting new words Celia would say and think if she were presented with an exciting new situation--I knew I had to make a decision.  I could give in to creative temptation and jot down the magnificent conversation Celia and the young man were having in my head, or I could focus on my deadline.  A writer at war.

You see, even though the last scene is written, I'm not done with Celia yet.  She is too vibrantly clear in my head to let her go.  Maybe I'll have to break from grammar and sentence structure to get those scenes on paper.  Maybe if I do, she'll stop speaking to me long enough so I can finish LitD.

I can resist everything except temptation.
-Oscar Wilde

My question for you:
How do you resist temptation?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Not-So-National House Cleaning Day

Today I have deemed Not-So-National House Cleaning Day.

Since I began my serious pursuit of writing, my house has suffered greatly.  My bathroom hasn't been scrubbed in an embarrassingly long time.  The last time my floors were mopped was in February.  Dust?  Cobwebs?  Yep.  I've got those aplenty.  (It is especially useful living on the edge of conservation land with my primary source of heat being a wood stove.  The conservation land provides the spiders and the wood stove provides the dust.  Together, my cobwebs are eerie enough to make even Tim Burton cringe.)

The time I would normally use to keep a clean and orderly household has been swept away.  In its place?  Writing.  So today I will take a break from my third draft of LitD.  Celia's grammar may not improve but the air quality of my log cabin will.

My question for you?
How do you balance what you love to do (whether it is writing, knitting, playing video games, gardening, swordplay, etc) with your responsibilities?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Cleaning

If you haven't taken a look at YA Highway yet and you are interested in writing and reading, I recommend you do so.  Each Wednesday, they pose a question for writers to answer.  Last week they mistakenly skipped it, but had posted the question the prior week.  This week, they ask, "What novellas would you like to see inspire YA books?"  Because I have no answer that warrants a good post, here is my answer to last week's:

What do you hope to "clean out" from your writing? What habits/tropes/words, etc do you want to eliminate?

Oh boy.

1.)  First and foremost, I would like to clean out that word that crops up in situations that don't warrant its use:  THAT.  I also overuse the word slightly.

2.)  Next, cliches are still very much my anthrax.  They are oddly fascinating but disgusting.

3.)  As I sit here at my computer typing with my fingers and drinking my morning coffee in my workroom, I think I find myself occasionally adding extra superfluous words and phrases into my writing.  
I do not need to say my characters "push back the chair and stand."  It is enough to say they stand.  Pushing the chair back is implied.

4.)  Finally (and this should be first and foremost), I need clean my mental chambers of self-doubt.  I love LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS.  I love writing it.  I love editing it.  I will be successful.   

My question for you:
Is avoiding prepositions at the end of a sentence a stylistic preference or grammatically correct? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Excitement vs Fear -- Round 2

Excitement vs Fear -- Round 2
I told myself I wasn't going to do it, and yet here I am doing it.  My old nemesis self-doubt is back.  I rarely allow myself to believe I'm good at anything.  The truth is I succeed in many things.  The problem is I've got too much modesty mingled with too much self-doubt to ever truly feel optimistic about most of what I do.

I'm an emotional person trapped in a logical person's body.  Or is it the other way around?  I want to balance what is realistic with what is optimistic.  I want to replace all of my ifs with whens, but I want to do it in such a way that doesn't get my hopes up too high.  So what am I afraid of?  Failure.

In many ways, LitD has been an experiment of sorts.  No, not the type of experiment about which I teach my AP Statistics students.  Okay, okay.  It's not an experiment at all.  It's an anecdotal exercise in forcing myself out of my comfort zone.  This is something I find myself doing (or attempting) more.  Last summer, I forced myself to initiate eight social situations.  I made it a goal and I succeeded.  Mind you, I was still overly embarrassed when a co-worker asked me to explain a document I emailed him yesterday.  I then spent the next twenty minutes re-reading the (short) file to determine what I may have done wrong.  I'm still not certain if he was jesting with me or not.  I'm easy bait.  

Now, I am forcing myself to move beyond my neatly arranged box of mathematics and into the terrifying world of writing.  This is how:

Today I distributed five copies of LitD to the five young adults who volunteered to help me tighten up my novel.  They already know this because I've told them multiple times, but I'm anxious about this step in my writing process.  Here's the thing:  I'm not anxious about criticism.  I love critiques.  I long to make everything I do better.  So, there is an element of excitement here too.  What I'm anxious about not being good enough?  It's hard to tell.

Until I put aside the self-doubt, I suppose I will be anxious about many steps in my journey to publication.  BUT! I am infinitely excited too.  (I'm sure I'll say that too much.)  And deep down, under everything, I know this is going to work, even if I only know it in small spurts.

How do you reclaim yourself from self-doubt?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Second Draft? Check!

Today was monumental for two reasons.

The first, I finished my slow read of my first draft, thus effectively completing my second draft.

The second, I printed off a few copies for my student panel to begin reading THIS WEEK!

This means that in the very near future I will have people read my work for the very first time. Eep!
This also means I will soon begin my third draft, the draft I'll submit to agents*. Double Eep!

It doesn't feel real until there is a stack of papers sitting in front of you.  Like these:
I made a fancy cover so you can't read the words...yet.

If anything, Horatio thinks LitD is comfy.
*I take that back.  It will probably be my fourth or fifth draft I submit.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Eep!  With twenty-five percent of 2013 already passed, it's so very difficult to contain my excitement.

1.)  I'm a month ahead of my writing goal.
2.)  I'm 50% through my LitD slow read.
3.)  I've got a small handful of student volunteers gearing up to read my work.
4.)  I don't need anything else about which to be excited.  I'm just plain excited!  Things have never looked better.  :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mathematics and Balancing Time

As I've made it more and more public among my friends and acquaintances (and the internet) that I'm writing a novel, I have started to see a trend in the topics of conversation.  Conversations usually go like this:

Friend:  Huh.  Don't you teach math?
Me:  Yep.  Except I also majored in English as an undergrad.
Friend:  You don't see those together very often.


Friend:  How do you find time to do everything?
Me:  I don't clean my house.

On the first conversation:
Maybe you can answer this for me, but why don't we see more people who love mathematics and English (or the language arts, or writing, or whatever you want to call the subject) equally?  Every year at Parents' Night, I have at least three parents say to me, "Oh, I can't do math."  Some of them wear it as a badge of honor.  Maybe it's because I don't teach English, but I've never had a single parent say to me, "Oh, I can't read."  We live in a culture where illiteracy is horrible but it is okay not to be able to multiply or add. I don't understand that.

So yes, I am a math teacher.  Yes, I also love writing.  The two events are not disjoint.
This is a Venn Diagram of events that are not disjoint.

On the second conversation:
I am a mother to a toddler and a wife.  I teach high school mathematics full time.  I bake copious amounts of bread and muffins.  I sew and embroider.  I preserve jams, marmalades, pickles, and relishes.  A lot.   I also read and read and read and read.
It's not as simple as this, but I'll say it this way:  I find time to write because I make time to write.  Most of the time, that means other things don't get done.  Cleaning is number one on that list.  Sleeping is number two.  

I have also learned to use every waking second and have mastered the fine art of multi-tasking.  For example, I can usually get through one or two novels in a week because I listen to them on audiobook now.  Prior to motherhood, audiobooks didn't exist.  Now, I can do just about anything and read a book at the same time.  This buys me about twelve hours a week.  I brush my teeth while I shower.  Now I've earned another fifteen minutes each week.

I can't say I'm fully pleased with every decision I've made in order to allow myself time to write.  For example, a good friend told me she was making this for her daughter.  Wow.  Just wow.  I've decided my daughter will not have one.  I'm going to write instead.  Now, I have the fine fortune of wrestling with the guilt such a decision makes.  The little fairy on my right shoulder says, "Bad mom! You should show your daughter you love her and spend her nap time making this for her."  The fairy on my left shoulder says, "All right, Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt, get over it.  The sooner you write your novel, the sooner I can stop listening to you complain about what a horrible mother you think you are."  Am I a bad mom because of the choices I make?  Let's see how the little one turns out in twenty years.