Thurs. April 25, 2019: Evolution of the Writing Process & Internet Bullying

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

That pressure you’re feeling? Jupiter AND Pluto are retrograde. Saturn joins them on Monday. Yuck.

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth for the latest post on the garden.

Was with a client most of yesterday. Somehow, when I woke up I thought it was Thursday instead of Wednesday; even once I realized it, I had trouble getting into the Wednesday head space to work with the client.

Home and worked in the garden for about an hour. There’s still a lot to do, but I just have to do it one piece at a time. Eventually, it will all get done.

Worked on contest entries.

I’m playing with a new idea for a series of novellas. I want to mix genres. I want them to be short. The characters are clear; the world is taking shape. I have the beginnings of a plot, which I’ll have to explore further. I don’t want them to run longer than 25-30K, so the plot has to be precise, and a minimum of sub-plots, even though I want a couple of them to run the course of the series.

I’m not sure WHEN I can fit in the writing of them, so I have something worthwhile to show my editor. I have deadlines to meet, and re-adjusted deadlines to meet.

But it’s fun to play with the ideas.

It’s so important for process to evolve. My process is constantly evolving. I learn from each project. I work on both art and craft. Some of them wind up not working at all, and that’s okay. Disappointing, but even what doesn’t work gets me somewhere else, and gives me valuable experience.

I’ve written books as a blank-pager, not using an outline. (I don’t use the term “pantser” — to me, it sounds like an STD). While it was sometimes fun and often frustrating to figure it out as I wrote, ultimately, I had to evolve away from that. It also needed a lot more drafts to get it into the shape where I could even ask a Trusted Reader to look at it.

This is my profession, not my hobby. This is how I keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block or not knowing what comes next when I sit down at the page. I need to be able to drop immediately into the world of whatever I’m working on and move forward.

I’m juggling several series, along with other projects. Some are novels; some are radio plays; some are stage plays; some are articles or other writing I do for clients. I don’t have the option of telling a client I “didn’t have time” to do their project.

Outlining has helped me. I sit down and plot out the book. I free write the characters’ stories. Then I go back and work on plot points and scenes. Then I arrange and rearrange them as I best think it will serve that particular book.

I don’t like working on index cards. For scripts, especially television scripts, that’s the protocol, and if I’m working as part of a staff, or with a partner, yes, we use index cards. But I’m happier with paper and pen. My outlines are more like treatments.

This is NOT the outline I’d send with a query. Even the outlines I send my editors for series in progress are honed from these outlines, but are NOT these outlines. I call these outlines my “Writer’s Rough Outline.”

I type a copy and keep my original handwritten copy. I usually work from the handwritten (if I can read it — sometimes it’s too scrawled). The creative energy that went into the handwritten copy often serves me better than a cold, typed version.

As I complete each section of the outline, I check it off.

I adjust along the way, as the story and characters dictate and evolve.

My outline is a roadmap, not a prison. I often go in very different directions. That’s okay.

The first draft is often lean and skeletal. I don’t want to lose momentum. I want to get through it.

I like to put each draft away. The most important rest time is between the first draft and the second. Ideally, it’s two months. The reality is often far less, but I always try for at least two weeks.

I have to be able to look at it objectively, as though someone else wrote it.

Then I do as many drafts as it takes, including my multi-colored draft (where I go through with different colored markers highlighting adverbs, passive or past perfect, and qualifiers. Then I take them out and look for better ways to express what I want to say. If that word IS the best way, I negotiate with myself to put it back in).

The second draft is usually where I overwrite and follow tangents and develop ideas. The third draft if usually a combination of multi-colored draft and massive cuts.

Trusted readers usually get a third or fourth draft. I usually have at least one, sometimes two drafts after my readers see it before I consider it submission-ready. An un-contracted manuscript can take several years until it’s ready for submission.

The books on series contract have fewer drafts, since my contracted editor is in earlier in the process. Plus, the schedule is tighter.

There are always more ideas than hours in the day to write them. (I distrust those who say they “don’t have anything to write about” the same way I distrust people who get bored. Writers always have too much to write about). I recently started a notebook I call the “Whatever” notebook. I’ve had variations on this throughout the years, usually called “Fragments.”

I date every entry. I find the date provides a context for the inspiration, and sometimes it helps to go back to other elements of the day.

In it, I write whatever I want. A snippet of dialogue, an observation, ideas as characters and situations come to me. If I’m somewhere between meetings or in a waiting room or just want to get away and clear my head, I take the Whatever notebook and free write. Write about whatever’s on my mind, a combination of inspiration, what if, development, and brain dump.

It’s along the lines of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Practice and Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, although they happen at any time in the day, and at any place.

Morning pages work for lots of people, but not fore me. Morning is my most creative time. If I do morning pages, then I’ve used up that creative energy that should have gone into whatever is my Primary Project (the manuscript in which I write my first 1K of the day every morning). I think they’re great if they work. The concept is terrific, and it gets the person writing every day. But I need my first writing of the day to be about the work, not about me.

I’ve also started reading a few pages in one of my favorite writing books in the morning, before I start writing. Morning routine is: make coffee, feed the cats, check email/social media (sometimes I respond, while the coffee is brewing; sometimes I make a note to respond later), first cup of coffee, yoga, meditation, shower/dress, first 1K of the day.

When the weather is nice, I have my first cup of coffee out on the deck. When it’s not, I have it in my writing room. Now, I’m reading a few pages in one of my favorite books about writing (I have shelves of them, and some of them I re-read regularly as fuel).

Any other kind of book siphons energy away from my own work; in other words, I don’t read fiction first thing, or it derails my first 1K. But reading about writing and process helps. Usually it’s only 2-3 pages. But it starts building the desire.

Once I’ve written my first 1K of the day, I have breakfast. Check email, plan the day. If I can, I get a little more writing done. If it’s a day where I’m headed off to work with a client, I do it. Otherwise, I might write at home for a bit, and then head to the library for a few hours. There, I can research and put together pitches, or just sit in a corner and write. I answer emails, I send out LOIs or pitches. It’s easier for me to do that away from the writing room.

I prefer to write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. That’s flexible, depending on deadlines.

Again, weather dictates when I can work in the yard, so sometimes I have to push an editing session or add an extra writing session into the evening, when necessary.

I still go out with friends. I still spend time with family. But they can’t sabotage the writing. Anyone who sabotages the writing is removed from my life. This is my profession as well as my passion. I am the breadwinner. Writing is a priority, and those who don’t understand that, who don’t respect that, reveal a far deeper problem than time or writing. They reveal that they don’t understand or respect ME. Why would I have people in my life who don’t respect me?

That carries over to the endless bullying on the Internet. The last few days, I have received demands to stop talking about politics because the follower “only” wants writing information; to stop talking about writing because the follower “only” wants politics; to block people that person didn’t like or they would block me; if I’m even willing to listen to a different point of view, they’ll block me; if I don’t like the same thing they do, they’ll block me; they pick the “hill they want to die on” for something meaningless to most of the rest of us and demand fealty; that they’ll block anything that is retweeted without comment — really? If it’s well said, adding anything is only ego on my part; that I have to “prove” I’m a “real person” and they get to define “real” and that I “must” use pronouns in my bio– um, no. I get to decide what I share publicly and how to share it; to stop forwarding information on animals in kill shelters whose lives can be saved through adoption, fostering, and sponsorship.

All these people can go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. They don’t get to tell me what to post about, what to write about, how to live, what parts of myself I choose to share with the world.

I’m tired of people who claim they support inclusion and tolerance and are fighting for what’s right then tell me what I can and can’t say or do or think — as much as those we’re fighting dictate to us. Especially if it’s someone I’ve never met and only know for a few days on a social media platform.

Are you paying me to write something specific? No? Then you don’t have a say in what I write. YOUR right is not to buy it. Or read it. But not to tell me I can’t or shouldn’t write it.

None of these people matter in my life. I quietly unfollow or block plenty of people every week. We’re just not compatible. I don’t have to threaten them or fight with them. I either scroll past (because we are all more than one thing, and that’s beautiful) or, if it truly is something I don’t want in my life in the long term, I unfollow or block, as appropriate. I don’t have to make a big deal out of it. I’m a random person on plenty of people’s feeds, as they are on mine. We can peacefully co-exist, in most instances, without bullying each other. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to write posts that incite violence or demean people — yes, those should be called out. But if someone is happy about a show or a flavor of ice cream or whatever? Why be mean? If something matters to someone and they want to share a post to try and help? Why do YOU have the right to say THEY don’t have the right to care or to share it?

You don’t.

Also, I am not required to follow everyone who follows me, nor is everyone I follow required to follow me. There are certain red flag words in posts or bios that mean I won’t follow back. It doesn’t mean that person is expected to change; it’s just not something I want in my life. Eventually, they will probably unfollow me anyway.

And we don’t miss each other, because we never really knew each other.

Yes, social media is a marketing tool for my work. But that’s only part of the reason I’m on it. I’m on it to learn from people who know and are interested in different things than I am. I am on it for conversation and information and laughter. I don’t have to like, or even agree, with every post from every person that shows up on my feed.

Have I made poor choices, either in comments or in sharing? Of course. But I’m getting more aware of it, and am thinking twice before doing either. I am well aware how flawed I am, and I work on it. But I don’t bow to bullies, even in elementary school.

I’m happy with the way GRAVE REACH is going, and hope to get in at least one more writing session on it today. I have to make a grocery run, go to the library, take my mother to a doctor’s appointment, get some yard work in.

I also have to go over Saturday’s presentation one more time, and re-check the packing and all the stuff I’m bringing for the presentation. I have a rolling rack full of fun stuff. I leave for the conference tomorrow. I present late on Saturday. I know I’m prepared, but I always like to make sure.

I could teach a semester-long course on this. I have 50 minutes. I hope I picked the right 50 minutes of material!

Back to the page. And the yard.

 

Thurs. Aug. 23, 2018: Lucy Learns to Play

Thursday, August 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny/cloudy/hot/humid

Overslept, which is setting me back quite a bit today.

Couldn’t get to the grocery store on my way home from work yesterday because there were so many accidents. Streets blocked off all over the place.

Client work was okay, but a little tiring. The individual who left (the shit-stirrer) turned out to have made a LOT of expensive mistakes that we now have to fix. I know that my life on site for that particular gig is much less stressful now that she’s gone.

Some more client work today.

Working on my calendar articles.

RELICS is chugging along well. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I work scenes out in my head and then they’re ready to type when I get up in the morning. I plan to dig in hard over the next few days.

When I do the next editing pass on it, I’ll work on all Amanda’s chapters first, then all of Phineas’s chapters, then do another pass to make sure they integrate properly.

If the weather holds this weekend, I’ll catch up on yard work (I hope).

DHARMA is behind where I want it to be, but it’s going along, too.

I was thinking, yesterday, about how much I miss days spent scribbling in notebook while sitting in a coffee shop. We have few coffee shops around here, and none close enough not to be a major planning operation to get up and get to it. Nirvana is my favorite.

I remember reading, in one of Natalie Goldberg’s later books, how she, too, misses the days that inspired WRITING DOWN THE BONES, when she didn’t know any better!

Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do. I just need to find a way to build in some more unstructured creative time that’s not focused on any one creative project.

Lucy is learning how to play. Imagine a six year old cat who doesn’t know how to play! She’s finding she quite likes it. She learns by watching Tessa, and then I take time to introduce her to some of the other toys, too. We have a ton of toys; Tessa is partial to one in particular that she doesn’t want to share right now, so Lucy has plenty of others to keep her busy.

I have a couple of article pitches to get out, a couple of workshop proposals to get out, and some more LOIs. When I’m done with client work, of course.

Then, it’s yard work and back to the page.

I won’t be able to post tomorrow until the afternoon. My morning is caught up with appointments.

 

Published in: on August 23, 2018 at 8:58 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Aug. 23, 2018: Lucy Learns to Play  
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Nano 30 Tips for 30 Days: Day 8: First Week/Inspiration for the Weary

This is the one-week point. You’ve survived an entire week! Woo-hoo! Congratulations! Have I told you recently how proud I am of you? I am – very, very proud.

The second week is difficult because that’s when you tend to hit a wall. The fresh bloom of love sometimes passes in the project, and it becomes hard work. And sometimes that’s what writing is – work. You push through the tough parts until you reach another place where it flows and you get that inky high again.

Here are some of my favorite books that I read over and over again when I start having trouble putting words on the page. I don’t use any of them as the be-all and end-all, but I use bits and pieces to help fuel me:

MAKING A LITERARY LIFE by Carolyn See
ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN by Elizabeth Berg
SOMETIMES THE MAGIC WORKS by Terry Brooks
WRITE AWAY by Elizabeth George (my process is soooo different, but she has some good ideas)
THE RIGHT TO WRITE by Julia Cameron (the only one of her books I like)
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING by Natalie Goldberg (the best of her writing books, in my opinion)
Any of the Paris Review interviews edited by George Plimpton

There are plenty of other writing books worth reading, but these are the ones I go back to, time and time again, when I get tired.

Come Write In! Tuesdays 11-1, Thursdays 2-4, Marstons Mills Public Library, 2160 Main St., Marstons Mills, MA