Monday, November 8, 2010

Crisis of Confidence

I’ve been working on my first novel for about four years now and this weekend I decided that it’s awful.

I was in the middle of editing in order to give a draft to my primary beta reader next week and as I read and rewrote and read and rewrote I became more and more convinced that the story is plodding, predictable and just plain boring.

I feel sure that when I give it to my reader she’s going to tell me that the entire story doesn’t work and that I need to go back to the drawing board (she’d done it before).

After this much time spent with this story and these characters I’m not sure that I have it in me to start again. You can imagine how much fun I was to be with this weekend.

So what to do? Go on? Give up? Start another book? Take Kate’s suggestion and start drinking heavily?

To be honest, I don’t know. But I’ve come this far and invested this much that I think I owe it to this story and these characters to keep going and see if I can make it work.

I know that every writer has been at this place in the process before. What do you do when you’re here?

Are there any good restaurants?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


My daughter is a pretty good hockey player.

She enjoys the game and she's better than most of the other girls in her division. In fact, she's in the middle of three try-out practices from which the league will choose players for the "Select" team. If she makes it it will mean more practices, more training but better coaching and more ice time. It will take her to the next level of the sport.

But she's eight. She tells me that she likes playing hockey and she wants to play on the Select team but she's worried that it will be hard. She says that she's not sure if she wants to do it if it's hard.

So what do we do? Do we push her because we know she has the talent to make it and it would be good for her? Or do we let her take the easy route and stay back in the house league because she's just a kid and kids should be having fun?

If I push her, have I become the dreaded "Hockey Mom"?

As I thought about this over the weekend I compared it to my writing - surprise, surprise. If I'd given up on writing because it was hard I would have about two paragraphs of a first chapter and half a title to my credit. For me, writing is pretty much always hard. For the most part I enjoy the work, but it's always hard. And yet that's what makes it so fulfilling. Every time I work through the hard part and end up with something that's better I feel proud.

I want my daughter to learn the same thing. It's a cliche, but it's true that anything worth having is worth working for. And whether it's writing or hockey or anything else in life, the people who are able to keeping pushing through the hard parts are the people who tend to rise to the top and achieve their dreams.

So, we've decided to push her. She may whine from time to time and complain that she's tired and ask why do we have to go to another practice. But I see her face when she comes off the ice and she's glowing and I can only hope that, in addition to new stick handling skills, she's learning a really important lesson about life.

Anyone know where I can get my "Hockey Mom" bumper sticker?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Importance of Being Regular

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. I tell myself constantly that I need to get my butt over here and start talking but then I find I can’t think of anything brilliant, insightful and witty enough so I just put it off again.

And I think therein lies the problem.

Do you visit the blogs that you visit regularly because of their deep and meaningful comment on life and/or the writing process? Do you bookmark the sites that provide the best footnoted research?

I don’t. The sites that I visit regularly are the ones that are updated every day and the ones that feel “real” to me. I visit Tawna Fenske’s Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing almost every day. When I arrive I’m just as likely to find a post about Phallic Squash as I am a fantastic explanation of Show Don’t Tell. And I love that.

The point is that I don’t think you have to worry so much about being brilliant in a blog for people to want to read it. You have to be regular and you have to be you.

So, let’s give it a whirl…

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rushing The End

So I think that I’m about 5,000 – 10,000 words from the end of the first draft of my WIP.  

It’s taken me months to get here and now I can see the end. I can taste it like mint chocolate chip ice cream on my tongue.  I find myself thinking, “I could probably stay up all night tonight and just finish the damn thing, or I bet if I left the kids with my husband and spent all day Sunday at the library, I could finish it this weekend.”

At this point it’s so tempting to rush, but I’m trying really hard not to.  I’m coming up to the climax of the book and, well, that’s kind of an important part.  Sure, I could stay up all night and just get through it – throw a bunch of words at the page:

 She did this and then this and then he said this and then this and it was really bad but then it was really good and the end.

And I’d be done.  But all that would mean is that I’d have to do twice as much work during revisions when I’d have to actually take the time to think each scene out the way I should be doing now.

So, while my goal is to finish my WIP by the end of this month, my goal is also to do it right.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Do They Want?

A tweet today from author James Scott Bell gave me chills. He wrote, “Every character in every scene should have an agenda, even if it’s just to close the window.”

Now that is some good advice people.

No one reads a story to hear about happy people sitting around utterly content with everything that’s going on around them. We want to read about desperate people, people with problems, people who want something. Because the reason we keep turning the pages is to find out if they ever get it.

Make sure your characters – all of your characters – want something.

This goes for dialogue as well. A conversation where two people are simply updating one another on facts is booooring. In every conversation, one of your characters must want something from the other character (if they both want something froom the other, even better), whether it’s information or affirmation or adoration. Something.

Thank you, Mr. Bell.

Now excuse me while I go tattoo that quote on the insides of my eyeballs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If A Tree Falls In A Forest...

You know the age old question: if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A variation on the question could be posed of writers: if a writer writes her heart out and never gets published, should she keep writing?

I know several writers who tell me that they write simply because they love writing. They have no intention of ever submitting their work to agents or editors and yet they work away, year after year, writing and editing, attending critique groups and striving to weave the best stories they possibly can.

I do not understand these people.

I am fascinated by them, I even admire them in a way, but I do not understand them.

I want to be published. I want to find an agent and I want that agent to sell my book and then I want to write more books and have that agent sell those books and so on and so on.

Would I keep writing if I could look into a crystal ball and know that that will never happen? I don’t think so.

Because the thing is, while I enjoy the work of writing and rewriting and slowly chipping away at the stone until the story reveals itself – it’s really, really hard. I struggle every single day to juggle my day job, my family, my friends and my writing work. I stay up late when I’m tired. I sit in the dark basement in front of my computer on sunny Saturday afternoons, I force myself to write even on those days when there’s nothing I feel like doing less in the world.

I don’t do it for fun. I do it because it’s a job. Right now it’s a part time job that pays me nothing, but it’s a job that leaves me feeling fulfilled at the end of each day and my long term goal is to have that non-paying part time job take the place of my paying full time job. But it will still always be a job.

So if, ten years from now, I still don’t have an agent or a book deal, will I keep writing? Yes, I think I will, but I will also keep trying to get published because, for me, they will always go together.

What about you? Do you write with no desire to ever be published? Or, if you are published or trying to get published, would you keep writing even if that was never going to happen?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Reading While You Write

For Mother’s Day this year, my wonderful husband bought me a tiny little Dell mini laptop that fits in my purse. 

He was tired of hearing me whine about how little time I have to write and – being a man – he went into solution mode and decided that if I had a tiny little computer I could get some writing done during my hour-long commute on the train to and from work each day.


It was great for a little while.  I would get my seat, power up my new little friend and I could get 500 words down before we pulled into the station downtown.  The problem was that the time on the train that I was now using for writing was time that I used to use for reading.  I thought that I had just been filling in empty time with all that reading – but I was wrong.

Turns out that I write better when I’m reading a lot.  I read almost exclusively books in the genre that I write (women’s fiction) so with all the reading I do on the train every day, I get to see how other writers are handling story structure and character development.  I also read like a writer so when a book makes me cry in front of my fellow commuters, I think about what the author did to get that reaction out of me.  When I’m board with a book and ready to move on to something else, I think about why it’s not working for me.  I also get to see techniques that other writers use to weave their story and often find myself thinking, You can do that!?!

 I learn so much from reading and I can see the effects in my writing.

I found that while it was great to get those extra words in on my WIP every day, my writing was actually suffering. I was missing the inspiration and insight that I had been getting from my daily reading.

So, for now the laptop stays at home and when I get into my seat on the train I pull out a novel instead.

Do you find that it helps you to read while you’re working a writing project?  If so, do you try to read in the genre in which you write?