Waking up from writing

This summer I was tasked with rewriting one of my old manuscripts. For those of you who have read my drafts along the way, it was yet another rewrite of Kricket. I have no idea what draft number I’m on with this thing. I wrote the first draft in 2010, and it’s been a pain in my ass ever since.

My publisher and I decided it was time to revisit this story, which I shelved in 2015 after splitting with my agent. My wonderful editor sent me the suggested changes at the beginning of this summer. One of the suggestions was to rewrite it in first person. I agreed with her assessment and got started.

As I rewrote it, I found plot problems and fixes everywhere. I ended up scrapping about 75% of the original book. Meanwhile, my kids were home all day and we had company in and out all the time. It was nearly impossible to get it together.

And then I was given a deadline. Obviously I needed that to happen so I would get my work done. But I still struggled with time management because it was SUMMER. I plugged along as best I could, but I couldn’t really hit it until school started back on September 5 (which was only a half day because of course it was). Meanwhile, my deadline was September 12. I wrote when I could, but progress was slow.

My editor took pity on me and granted my request to move the deadline to September 19.

I spent every day from September 6 to September 19 doing nothing but writing except when I slept. Before this writing frenzy, my personal word count record for one day’s work was 2,000. Now that record is 6,000. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. I went days without showering, I didn’t cook, I didn’t grocery shop, I didn’t clean (but I don’t do a lot of that anyway). I did enough laundry to keep us in clean underwear, but I cut it close more than once. I didn’t have time to obsess over daily news. It was glorious.

The manuscript is out of my hands once again. I don’t know if the overhaul puts the manuscript where it should be. I only spent two days on plot editing, so it could go either way.

I emerged from the writing frenzy on Monday night to an unexpected sadness. I had to get back to my responsibilities again. I had to grocery shop, answer emails, and get back in the gym. I started reading the news again.

It’s easier for me to live my life in fiction, constantly thinking about my story instead of reality. I have to walk out into the sun sometimes to exercise, to see friends, to help my kids with homework. But I think it’s time for me to spend more time in my world of make-believe.

 

 

Anxiety is clogging my brain

I’ve been blocked lately. Historically I don’t stay blocked long, but this time is different. I wish there was some kind of Miralax for the writer’s soul.

It started in October. I had overdosed on news and my creativity started to suffer. I eventually turned a corner in November and started up again. But lost it all in January. Sometimes the words come to me, but not consistently enough to finish anything as quickly as I’d like.

Fortunately the work I have created doesn’t go away. It waits for me while I stare at the blank page or binge watch TV in the name of dissecting story arcs. Honestly though, I don’t know where most of my time goes. It’s slipping away without leaving clues that it was ever here.

I’m currently in a workshop led by the amazing Ariel Gore. Ideas seem to be loosening up again. And May is usually a creative month for me. Hopefully it’s time to turn things around. But first I really do have to turn off the news. I have to let go of the threat of nuclear war, the dissolving relationships with our allies, the civil rights issues, and the threats to the first amendment. But if I do that, I’m not being a responsible citizen. So maybe I just need to compartmentalize. I need to shove all of my worries in a drawer in my brain until writing time is over every day.

Writing is extremely therapeutic for me. So not writing only makes the stress worse. If I’m not thinking about story ideas, I’m mentally listing the items we need for our make-believe basement bunker.

So I’m going to just keep trying. Every single day. My voice isn’t gone, it just needs some help getting out.

Gearing up for a Panda party!

On the Bricks was released by Pandamoon Publishing out of Austin. One of the things that makes Pandamoon different from larger publishers is that we are a close-knit group. This includes the authors, editors, publishers, artists, and PR staff. Thanks to the internet we interact daily. And now, several of us are taking it to real life.

This weekend we are meeting at C2E2 in Chicago. C2E2 is a fan convention for comic books, graphic novels, video games, pop culture, etc. On the Bricks is not typical con fare. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity to hang out with my fellow Pandamoon authors. If I sell a few books, that will be a bonus.

We’re also having a pitch party, so if you’re in the Chicago area and would like to pitch your book in person, stop by on Friday or Saturday. Or just stop by to meet some awesome authors and buy a few books. I’ll be at booth 142 with David Valdes Greenwood, Christine Gabriel, Elgon Williams, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Meg Bonney, and Dana Faletti. See you in Chicago!

 

It’s a Pitch Party in Chicago, y’all!

Where: C2E2 Booth 142, Pandamoon Publishing, South Building at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. (Note: Ticket to convention required, purchased separately)

When: April 21 1PM & 4PM; April 22 1PM & 4PM; April 23 11AM & 1PM

How: Sign-up starts at 10AM each day; maximum 20 pitches per slot. Stop by Booth 142 and sign up for one slot only. If you are signing up for a different day, you must show your pass is good for that day. When all slots are filled, sign-ups end.

What: Pitch your novel in a genre represented by Pandamoon Publishing. (No plays, screenplays, poetry collections, manuals for auto repair, etc.) You have only 2-3 minutes so be sure to include: your genre, title, logline, plot summary in 50 words or less, and hint of your personality!

Why: The aspiring author with the best pitch from each session will be invited to directly submit the full proposal to Pandamoon Publishing without waiting for the annual submission window to re-open.

Does a pitch party really work?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it will never work for you if you don’t try.

Not ready to pitch yet? Come listen to others and prepare for your chance in the future.

I borrowed this post from DVG Books & Plays. I encourage you to hop over there and check out his fabulous content.

See you in Chicago!

xo

SGSC

One scene at a time

I have recently recommitted myself to my writing after a prolonged break. And by break I don’t mean that I wasn’t writing at all. I mean that I wasn’t working on a specific project for very long, and I wasn’t writing every day.

For me the only way to get a book written is to write approximately 1000 words a day. That is about the length of one of my scenes. I have tried different methods in the past. At my personal busiest I tried for 500 words a day. The problem with that pace was that I couldn’t make progress fast enough, and I sometimes didn’t complete my thought before finishing my daily quota but I would walk away anyway because I had other shit to do. I’ve also tried for 1500 words a day. Though it’s not a ridiculous amount, I found myself burning out quickly, and it needed to be 1000 or 2000 to get my scene lengths right.

A scene a day is the best way for me to keep my forward momentum without stressing myself out and giving up. I love writing, but it can become just another responsibility if let it. And who wants to be stressed out by his or her art?

It takes me about an hour to write 1000 words. But that is the actual writing of words that I keep and don’t delete. I’m usually “writing” for more than an hour. But this gives me time to write blog posts, edit what I’ve already written, grocery shop, cook, do laundry, exercise, pick my kids up from school, and read. The other parts of my life demand just as much attention.

As part of my renewed commitment, I’m learning how to say “no”. I have a big problem with over-planning, as any of my good friends can attest. It’s tough for me, as I’m very social and I feel a responsibility to volunteer for school activities.

Books don’t write themselves. And I can carry ideas in my head forever without using them. But any writer can tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than failing to get words down on paper. So I’m going to keep going now. I’ll go scene by scene.

It’s her fault

My friend  Laura Ellen Scott posed an interesting question at the end of a blog post a few months back. The question was what does your family/community think of what you do, and does that affect how you write?

My mom isn’t crazy about my writing. Don’t get me wrong: she does the best she can when reading my swear-leaden prose which conflicts directly with her Southern Baptist morals. She encourages my art, but can’t avoid saying things like “I’m not crazy about the language”.

I don’t write things she disagrees with on purpose. It’s my muse’s fault.

My muse is a foul-mouthed, white-trash sadist. Think 1990’s Courtney Love, only Southern and into pills instead of heroin.  I don’t mind a bit. I made peace with her a long time ago. The problem lies with some of my loved-ones.

Trouble-maker
Trouble-maker

My mom asked me to send her a copy of my next book with all of the “bad language” blacked out with a marker. I happily agreed. It’s a compromise I can live with, even if it my integrity suffers a little. Mothers are worth compromising integrity for now and again.

Really, it's no problem. It's not like I mind censorship or anything. I mean, what writer does?
Really, it’s no problem. It’s not like I mind censorship or anything. I mean, what writer does?

I have tried to tone it down, to write things more suitable for my mostly conservative family. But the writing reflected my restraint, and that wasn’t okay.

My community of friends and writers aren’t as squeamish about foul language, fornication and overdoses. They accept that my muse would never be invited to sit on the PTA. But I am not my muse. I’m just a writer.

A day in the life

itsokay

People are always asking me, “Girl, WHAT are you doing all day now that your kids are in school?” Well, I’m here to tell you that my life has never been fuller. Here’s a sample of my day:

7:45 Everybody out! See you on the flip-side, suckas.

7:46-8:00 Coffee time! This is when I unload the dishwasher, etc.

8:01-8:30 Catch up on the headlines. I need reasons to be depressed.

8:31-9:00 Forget what I was about to do so I sit on the bed and watch some crap from the DVR.

9:01-10:00 Weep for my wasted youth and listen to some tunes.

10:01-11:30 Write and/or lose time on the internet.

11:31-12:00 Weep for the day that is slipping away from me.

12:01-12:30 Lunch time! A girl’s gotta stay fueled!

12:31-1:00 Feel guilty for eating too much. Stand in front of the mirror and pick out my flaws.

1:01-2:00 Weigh the pros and cons of cosmetic procedures. Reassess my values.

2:01-2:45 Feel bad about my wasted day, take a shower, and start some laundry.

2:46 Time to leave for school! My little cherubs await.

After that it’s a blur of homework, lessons, snacks, and laughter!

Throwback Thursday

I’m purging my house and finding lots of treasures. Maybe not lots, but a few. Okay one. I found one treasure.

Years ago (about 20) I was in a writing funk that wouldn’t lift. My bestie since I was 14 (what up, Ashlee??) put together a collection of my work to inspire me. A lot of the prose wouldn’t make sense to you guys because it centers around private jokes. But the writing that follows won’t make sense simply because it doesn’t make sense.  Please enjoy the following poems from my youth. xoxo

***

SPACE PIGS

If I had a dollar,

I’d buy your mama,

And mail her to Egypt.

They make good

Wal-Marts there.

***

REFLECTIONS OF GREATH DEPTH

I like to think of my legs as land and the hairs on them simply as trees. Trees should not be cut down. It really feels good to help out the environment.

***

SPACE COWS

Three blind mice.

Where are their eyes?

Oh, here they are,

in my pocket.

***

I think this answers the question of whether or not I’ve always been a lyrical genius. Thanks for being my muse, Ashlee.

Prepping for the last year of my 30’s

My 39th birthday is coming very soon, friends. I’m preparing with a simple list of resolutions, and lots of drinking. It’s never to late to better/pickle yourself.

Here is my list of resolutions for my last year as a 30-something:

Stop trying to bait Lindsay Lohan with my blog posts. I need to accept that she probably won’t ever be my friend, no matter how much she needs me.

Stop getting angry when people use too many internet abbreviations.

Give up wine for a while. JK! LOL! ROFLMAO! FML!

Wash my bras more often.

Stop telling people about my hemorrhoid surgery. Apparently that’s not appropriate small talk.

Clean up my language. A woman my age should not be using words/phrases like buttload, crapload, shitload, shit-ton, turd* monkey, turd jerky, turd knocker, fart knocker, toot knocker, douche nozzle, douche monkey, sir toots-a-lot, sir farty car, professor fart face, monkey butt, monkey bottomus, poopie pants, butthead, butthole, butt puppet, butt nugget, turd nugget, turd waffle, or butt waffle. I call myself a writer for shit’s sake. I really need to rethink my vocabulary.

I think it’s obvious that I’m ready to take 39 by the gnards. Bring it!

*For those of you who are aware of my long-standing issue with the word turd not being spelled terd, you’ll be glad to know that I’m working past it.

Why I don’t mommy blog

Because I’m a writer with a blog and I have a couple of kids, people (women) sometimes ask me why I don’t “mommy blog”. Here’s why: I tend to keep this part of my life for myself (gasp).

Many women will admit (some won’t) that when you become a mother you lose a part of yourself. You also gain a new, different self who’s more sympathetic and nurturing, but you lose the part of you that was just you without anybody else to constantly worry about. It’s a huge freaking adjustment.

Like a lot of Gen Xer’s, I waited until my 30’s to have kids. By then I was firmly rooted in my sense of self. My very free self who liked to stay out too late and take lots of naps. When I had a baby, the options to stay out too late, take lots of naps, and be a selfish asshole were removed. It was time for that to happen anyway. No sweat. But the overhaul of self was unexpected.

I was a person before motherhood. Not a perfect person by any means, but I like to remember those days in little ways. My blog is a “safe place” for me. I say what I want because no one is forced to read it. I don’t write about motherhood here (except this time of course) because I’m a mother ALL THE TIME and here I’m just a struggling writer who spends too much time thinking about that date-rapey episode of Louie and wondering if Lindsay Lohan would like me if we met in real life. Here I don’t have to worry about whether or not my kids are getting enough fruits and veggies (they’re not) or if I’m screwing them up permanently (I am). Here I can just take a deep breath and make fun of Kim Kardashian’s fashion choices.

wine