Category: word count (page 1 of 3)

Breaks

I love my Christmas vacation! (Look! An Exclamation Mark! Many Marks!) I have my whole little family home, and we do a lot of relaxing, some eating, some visiting, some movies, some reading (we all got books for Christmas, natch), some laughing, some playing, and some of us (totally not me) even get to do some skiing.

I also have been doing the writing. I have this goal that I’ve been meeting for a whole week now about writing 1000 words a day. Once that was my normal. Once I did that every day. In less than an hour. Then I got a job and an increased blood pressure and a fear of failure all at once, and I sort of cut away at all the things that Didn’t Matter So Much. Writing my 1000 words a day fell by the way. The blood pressure normalized, and I realized that – although I missed it – writing was not essential to my life. Then. I’ve kind of decided that I want it to be essential to my life again.

Here are some things I’ve noticed: * Writing 1000 words is not hard if you have something to say. Dialog can go on for pages and pages and pages, if there’s subtext and romance and sadness. If, however, you’re trying to describe getting a heavy box into a locked house, it can take a really long time to make those sentences stick to the page. Because WHO CARES is why.

* Seeing the word count grow at the bottom of a document is a total rush for word nerds like me. Total rush. RRRUUUSSSHHH. (Don’t you hate how that doesn’t really say a word anymore?) It’s kind of like the feeling when the numbers go down on a scale, but the opposite in direction and SO FAST.

* I don’t need this story to be a book. I have arrived at the place where I’m writing for the sake of writing. If I manage to make this a Real Story, and it lives to see itself Revised and makes it through Edits and I like it well enough to Submit, it still may not be a Book. And that is totally okay with me. I’m having fun with Greta and Will and Mac and Marigold and Julie the Librarian.

* This is a story that I’ve been pecking at for a long, long time (that’s calendar pages long, not consistent fingers-on-keys long), and it’s fun to see how things change in that time. Characters have grown depth and flaws and dimensions. Some things I’ve been certain my main character wouldn’t do (because they’re stupid) I’m letting her do (because they make good Story). It’s easier to teach that than to actually let it happen.

* Rejection still hurts my ability to create, even though I’m old. I have to deliberately focus on the fun of creating, the joy of drafting, and not consider how it might feel if this manuscript goes the way of the last one. Even though I’ve decide to write for the gift of it, sometimes my brain slips backward into the muck of disappointment (in myself, in bad communication, in frustrating relationships) and it’s hard to write my way through it.

* One thing that seems to help is to write the Vomit Draft. Maybe Real Writers (you know the ones – they have OUTLINES) don’t need to vomit out scene after scene, but I need to allow myself to do just that. It’s an act of discovery. I am throwing up words here, and I am okay with that. Today, this month, this year it’s okay to write words that won’t stay. Once (or maybe over and over) I told writer class attendees that Writers Block is nothing more than the fear of being less than awesome. I don’t have that fear any more, because OF COURSE THE FIRST DRAFT IS GOING TO BE LESS THAN AWESOME. That’s why God invented Revision. So I don’t have to feel blocked, because it so doesn’t matter (today) what I write, as long as I write. This will not always be the case. But I’ll embrace it today.

I’m loving this Christmas break, and the huge amount of family time it’s bringing. I’m enjoying the gift of writing time (and I really, really hope I can be a champ about it when I have to get up at 5:00 to do it) and the gift of watching my manuscript grow and the gift of seeing my characters become Something. Maybe I needed a break from daily writing to recognize that I really like it. Not like I like Breathing, necessarily, but maybe the way I like something else that’s good, like popcorn or snowshoeing or reading novels.

I hope the things you love are the things that fill your days as we stride toward the finish line of this good year.

Wherein I Use Many Words to Say Few Things of Significance

Today is the last day to enter to win TELL ME WHO I AM. So get on over and enter, if you haven’t. Because WINNING IS FUN. Remember that?

Also, New York. I am going. (Coming?) Soon. In a week I will be there. And I am excited more than I am nervous. Remember how I gave up fear for Lent? Still doing well with that, even though Lent is over. And hooray for me. I can ride a subway (or two or three)  alone. I can eat alone. I can buy an app that will tell me where to find one of the very few public restrooms in the Great City. (And possibly I can go a week without drinking any water, but probably not.) I can walk through Central Park alone. I can go see two (2) shows alone. I can write many words alone, when nobody is there to help me count them. [1] And I can be productive for hours and hours at a time. Especially when I’m not being tempted to watch period pieces on Netflix, due to the cost of wifi in the hotel.

(Sidenote: If you run an expensive, classy hotel, why do you charge for wifi? I’m just wondering. Wifi seems like one of those things, like oxygen, that should just come with your room these days. End sidenote.)

Prom is Saturday. Kid 1 has a pair of sparkly silver shoes and a web browser full of Prom Hair Ideas. Also a lovely borrowed dress. Photos to come, if you like.

I’m working on a new book. (It’s the one that follows the current book that is in the hands of Agent Meredith.) Maybe. I’ve never written a sequel before. Actually, that’s not true. I have 2 different series in my drafts folder. Each of them has at least three volumes started. And… None of them is publishable. So maybe what I’m saying is that I don’t know HOW to write a sequel, a series, a follow-up. I think it’s hard work. And we all know how I feel about hard work. But I’m learning how. By doing it (again). And it’s not so bad, in a first-draft/so-far-fewer-than-10,000-words kind of way. Not necessarily good, is what I’m saying, but not entirely bad.

Tomorrow I get to return to Mrs. G’s class to give them a pump-up cheer on their NaNoWriMo project. (Remember I told you they’re writing a book in a month? In 8th grade? Because Mrs. G is awesome?) I’m probably going to get a lot of questions like, “What do I do now? I can’t think of what should happen next.” And I’ll tell them to make something explode. Which is only half a joke. The other half of it is true: in a story, a great number of things can explode in order to move the plot along. Physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically… explosions make for great conflict, and conflict will move your story forward. (My own written explosions tend to be emotional and psychological, with an occasional social one. I should branch out into the physical explosion world. But that’s not really my style. We shall see…)

I am reading GRACELING. Because Agent Meredith suggested it. Someone with whom she was discussing my submission said it reminded her of Graceling. So I got it. And I’m reading it. Have you? Have your kids/neighbors/acquaintences, if you’re not a teenage-book reader? I have heard one amazing review of book 3 in the series (that comes out later this month), but little else about the series. And there is certainly an element that is similar to FIFTH GIFT. I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished it. Meanwhile, you tell me (you know, if you read it…)

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of TELL ME WHO I AM — do it today.

(Sorry. Sometimes I channel Señorita Bossy Pants. I’ll try to reign it in.)

[1] This is usual, actually. I don’t really write with other people around. Because I am easily distracted, that’s why. And I listen and talk and prepare snacks instead of pushing keys. But I might have to

Gratitude Month, Day 29

We’re coming into the home stretch here. I can feel it. I may never be thankful again.

Oh, come on. I’m just kidding.

But know what? It’s a beautiful day outside. It’s fifty degrees and sunny. It feels like fall, and it IS fall, but usually at this time of year we tend more toward smaller numbers, if you know what I mean. So today I’m grateful that it’s lovely outside, and that I made it out there too. That I spent four Very Productive Hours working on my revisions. That I think the book is getting better (oh, let me stop when I get to the top of that trend, and not revise it to death…). That even with the lots of removals, my word count increased by more than a thousand today. And that I made bread so we can have sandwiches for dinner. That we can go for shakes tonight (because Why Not?) and that the Kids are enjoying each other. That I have another day (tomorrow) with nobody expecting much of anything from me, so I can continue to revise and strengthen my little book. And that I have books on the nightstand waiting for me to dive into them. See? There is much to be glad for, even on a Normal Day.

Wherein I uncover my *system*

Do you have a writing zone? An office? A cave? A favorite table in a favorite cafe?

Do you have a preferred writing time? Are you a morning person? A night owl? A moment-snatcher, during naps (someone else’s)?

Do you need music? Silence? Chaos? Strangers? Midday sunlight? Vivaldi in A Minor performed by the London Philharmonic and directed by a tiny Asian child-genius?

I do. I have a SYSTEM. A source for my brilliance. [1] I write on the computer, which lives in the kitchen. I sit on the wooden chair that I steal from the kitchen table. Sometimes I throw a pillow on it. I write in the dark of morning, sometimes into the light of morning, depending on the season and the mojo. During the summer, that season and mojo are a little short. Because, see, I also demand solitude. And silence (or the hum of the dryer, because then I feel like I’m all fantastic, accomplishing TWO THINGS AT ONCE — I know, nearing perfection). And silence and solitude don’t last past seven a.m.

I’ve been trying to convince Husband that I NEED a laptop. He smiles at me in that comforting way which causes me to stick my tongue out at him, since we all know very well that I need food, water, shelter, 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep… but not so much another computer. But I manage to convince myself that if I had a laptop, I could do all kinds of through-the-summer-day writing. I could still do my early-morning thousand words [2]. And then, when Kids 3 and 4 come into the kitchen, pull up stools, and read over my shoulders, I could hug them, smooch their faces, and sneak off to my room, or a closet, or the basement, and write in the comfort of my Very Own Company. Where, of course, I could bust out another thousand words. Brilliant words, don’t forget.

And then, in the warm afternoon, I could take the lappy outside to the chair in the shade and listen to the breeze sigh through the trees as I write another thousand perfect, uninterrupted words.

See? Clearly, the only thing standing in my way — in the way of fabulous, completed manuscripts — is my total lack of laptop.

And, cue The Grand Delusion.

I’m all for structure. I’m all for consistency. I’m all for routine. But I’m also realizing that all my NEEDS, writingwise, are not actually food for the Muse. They’re excuses not to get the job done.

I’m not Organizing my Writing Life. I’m putting off doing the work.

*sigh*

Today is the last day of summer vacation around here. And I woke early and got some writing and revising done. And now, with a kitchen full of kids, I’m struggling to remember that I don’t actually have to blog in complete silence and solitude. Tomorrow, the Kids will go away in the morning. And they will not come back for HOURS. And I will have no further excuses to justify my snail’s pace.

Shoot.

Darn it.

All of it.

I don’t want them to go. I don’t want to live on someone else’s schedule. I don’t want to drive from school to school to school dropping off the Left Behind. I don’t want to come last in the Kids’ busy, full lives. I don’t want to watch the mountains turn red and gold and then brown and then white. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for two kids in High School. I’m not ready for drama. I’m not ready for PTA. I’m not ready for undeniable accountability.

But. Here it is, anyway. Accountability, front and center. So, my friends, here is a reckoning. I love that word. I should write a book called The Reckoning. Or you should. Someone should.[3]

*Ahem* At the beginning of June, Fifth Gift was at 30,000 words. At the beginning of July, 39,500. At the beginning of August, 43,500. And today, 47,630.  I don’t know how long it should really be, because I have this feeling that it should end when it’s over, when the story’s told, but I think the story will be told around 55-65,000 words. I think. Maybe not. And hey, if not, then fine. But there is the idea. I am still drafting. But also, revising. I know. That’s against the rules. Well, toss the rules. I’m filling in holes, and how do I know where the holes are unless I read through? I have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So these days I’m thickening it all up. And maybe changing the middle. And the end. And surely the beginning.

And as I go through and string together all the shiny beads, I can add things here and there. And I can take some things out, but I know me well enough to bet that I probably won’t, not on this pass. And I can add a few more things. And I can thicken up floppy characters. And I can let my characters eat if they want to. I can always take out half the eating scenes later. And I can baby step to the first full draft.

And I can live without excuses.

[1] Oh, come on.

[2] This is what we call an “ideal” and thank you very much, but I don’t actually need to be reminded that I don’t, in fact, write 1000 words every day. I already know that. I also know exactly how many pounds I need to lose and all my major character flaws. Thank you for playing.

[3] Do you have that song from The Italian Job in your head now? I do.

Joy in the Journey

I read Ann Cannon’s lovely blog post this morning, and I wanted to clap. And cheer. And say “Amen.” But since everyone around here is still sleeping (except Kid 4, who is [coincidentally] reading a book by the same brilliant Ms. Cannon) I refrain from noise. I will just link to her post about enjoying the writing part even if there’s no publishing part. JUST CLICK THESE BIG LETTERS if you want to gain some insight and glean some wisdom. Or, read below. Because sometimes that extra click is too much work. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Ann’s blog is one of the very few I check almost daily, because she is wonderful. And hilarious. And also, wonderful.

So last night at the WIFYR mingle at The King’s English (I love you, The King’s English), Claudia Mills and I had a conversation that inspired me. (Not unusual to have that type of conversation with Claudia. She IS inspiring.) Here’s what we decided.

1. While publishing is very nice, of course, you can have a satisfying writer’s life w/o it. You can go on writing retreats with writer friends. You can join and enjoy critique groups. You can host a reading. In other words, you can introduce those parts of a writer’s life you think would be fun into your own life.

2. And speaking of fun, what’s the point if it isn’t? There are published authors (with a LOT of titles even) who can still grumble with great bitterness, “Look at everything I’ve done and what did it get me?” Where’s the joy in that?

Let’s have fun, you guys.

I love, love the idea of making The Fun a part of the writing experience. Because it should be fun, indeed. (And also work.) (But also fun.) This is why we choose to be writers, instead of paralegals or plumbers or tap-dance instructors — because writing and the write-y lifestyle can be so much fun. [1]

On that note, writing is happening here. (Insert happy noises.) A little at a time, and complete with some fun. The words come, the ideas come, the story grows, the word-count increases (why, why is that so important to me? oh, yeah. i’ve become one of those type-A types.) and It Is Good — the doing part. I’m not yet sure about the actual words. But that is not to be decided now. This is a first draft, remember?

[*DING*] Oh, look. It’s time to get outside with the kids and dig up more bulbs.

(Pray for us.)

[1] I am certain that paralegal work can also be fun. And tap dancing. Plumbing? I’m receptive to arguments either way. But for me, it’s all about the writing. And the reading. Oh, the good, good reading. (Ha! Made you wait!)

Wherein I Stare Vacantly at the Monitor

I’m watching for it, that brilliant post. I’m waiting for it to arrive. I stare, purposefully if you wish, at the monitor. Here’s what I see. No brilliant blog post on the horizon. Rather, my head’s reflection, and the blowy trees in the back yard. This is the kind of mirror I can really mesh with, as it only shows the cuteness of today’s flip hair and the leafing trees out behind the patio.

I love it when the leaves come.

And they’re coming. Finally.

Also, there is a snowflake logo on my phone’s weather forecast. Twice. For today and for Thursday.

Update: I have just thrown away my phone.

(Don’t worry, Husband. That was a lie. Remember, everyone, that I lie? Well, I do.)

I’ve had ideas for posts. Isn’t that nice? And I haven’t written any of the ideas down. Hence, no posts.

I learned something, yesterday, though. Shall I share? I’m a much happier substitute teacher (specifically for the first grade) when I lower my classroom expectations just a smidge. When I don’t demand that everyone is actually LEARNING something at all times, everyone is a whole lot more glad. When I don’t expect all the kids to actually LISTEN to me, all is well. Shall I apply that to my life? No. I think not.

I love the produce man at my grocery store. (Don’t worry. Not that kind of love.) Here’s what happened. I scooted over to the store on Saturday because I had a couple of hours. And so, naturally, I should make jam. Strawberries were on sale for $1.50 a pound or something, so I grabbed up a lot of pounds. And Mr. Produce Man saw me. And stopped me from buying the pretty berries. And handed me 5 flats of slightly less pretty berries, for which he charged me something like $20. Like $.63 per pound. And told me I’d have to throw away a few. Which I did. Maybe one pound worth. I made 14 batches of freezer jam (the less sugar kind, because that’s how I roll) plus had enough halved berries to fill 2 gallon sized freezer bags, for smoothies. All for $20. (And some slave labor by Kid 3, who hulled berries like nobody’s business. I could not have done that little project without her. What a Kid.)

When I scooted over to the store to buy bananas and spinach and watermelon this morning, he waved me over and asked how the berries turned out. He was glad I’d had some big success, even if he maybe-possibly wished I’d had to throw away a few more pounds. The berries weren’t as bad as he’d thought, apparently.

WORD COUNT UPDATE:

I am more than half way to my word count goal for the current Work. (I like to call it Work. That makes it sound so terribly important. And prosperous, or something.) Strange things are happening on the pages (and off) in this story, and it’s fun to see it sort of moving along on its own steam, even when I ignore it for a couple of days so I can sub Kid 4’s class.

Which reminds me, I really should be writing at that story right now.

Instead of staring at my hair’s silhouette in the monitor.

Weird Hair

So I was talking with a person lately. (This is news, right?) And the person has, well, really weird hair.

I can’t describe it to you, because I’m not that good a writer. Just kidding. Because I don’t want to offend any more people this week. It’s a goal. Let us just leave it at this: The hair? It’s weird.

And here’s the thing. I found myself trying not to stare at the weirdness thereof. So much so, that I sort of found myself missing the person’s words. Most of them. Like I couldn’t focus on the conversation, because I was Distracted.

Which begs this question: What’s my Weird Hair Issue? I’m pretty sure I don’t have generally weird actual hair. I have way more than my share of bad hair days, but not a noticeable penchant for doing strange things on top of my head. People are much more likely to be moved to sympathy/empathy by my hair than to be struck dumb and deaf with wonder at the bizzarrity of it all. But what is my thing? The thing that gets in the way of communication? Or completion? What is The Distraction?

I have a tendency to write far too many shoulder shrugs. My characters shrug a lot. A lot. This must cause some readers to throw my books across rooms in frustration. Although no one has ever actually approached me with this particular complaint, I imagine it’s out there. And I am working on it. I have a little shock-collar-and-siren arrangement hooked up for when I slip into shruggery. (That was a lie. I don’t have any such thing.)

Also, I lie. Mostly here, on the blog. Is that distracting?

Sometimes I make lists, and I find great satisfaction in crossing things off these lists. (Is that a good thing, like being organized? Or a bad thing, like serious overdependance on outside validations? Both? I’ll take it.) But sometimes I find my lists distracting me from actual completion of things. For instance: Can I count the words I write on the blog as part of my 1,000 words to be written today? The answer is NO. I can’t. But sometimes I do. Because I get to cross it off my list, and that is connected to a thoroughly distracting thrill.

Projects become tangential, and that’s distracting from the goal. Like, I need to deep clean the pantry (always), so I start taking things off shelves. I find a Halloween bucket in there. (Don’t judge. It’s a big pantry. Plus, I may have suggested that Kid 4 use a Halloween bucket as his Easter basket this year at Grandma’s house.) So I take said bucket to the basement, where there is a great storage room full of strange and wonderful and distracting items. Such as my high school yearbook, which is for some reason open on the floor, right next to a carton of powdered milk. No, I can not explain that. Thank you for asking. Eenie, meenie… I choose to pick up the yearbook. And look at a few pages. Two hours later, I pull my wretched bones up from the concrete floor, determined to reconnect with at least seven Dear Friends who must, must be on FaceBook. Cue the forty-five minute time-suck. Meanwhile, the pantry isn’t getting any cleaner. See the problem?

I could go on (and on, and on) but I’ve already passed half my necessary word-count for today. (Just kidding, Husband! Working! On the Manuscript! That’s what I’m doing! Completely!) But really, it’s an interesting thought to me – what’s the “weird hair” that gets in the way of my goals, wether they’re health-related, or parenting-based, or writerly, or something else altogether? And would it be helpful to me if someone pointed out that I do, in fact, have really weird hair?

NOTE: It would NOT be helpful. I have plenty of issues already. I do not need another one. Thank you.

Spring Break! And Things!

Hey, friends. Welcome to Spring Break. We are doing all of the following to celebrate a whole week away from school:

Sleeping until seven every morning.

(Except I didn’t quite make it.)

Yep. That’s it. Big dreams, that’s what we’re made of around here.

Want to hear about my Big Date with Husband on Saturday? I thought so. We went to see a play. A musical. (I know. Husband of the Year. Again.) It was an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, which is my favorite Dickens novel (what’s yours?). I have me a little crush on the drunken lout Sydney C. What can I say? It’s my weakness for redemption figures. And he was wonderful in this show. The show played on Broadway for a while, then sort of did the Broadway equivalent of going out of print. (Poor little writer.) But it’s been “recalled to life” (get it?) in a run at Salt Lake City’s Hale Center Theatre. The writer/composer Jill Santorelli was there at the performance, sitting in the tech booth (she got an intro and a large ovation), and I wish that I could have gone over and given her a squeeze. But by the time the show ended, I was melted into a sobby puddle (yes, really) and I just sniffled my way to the car. If you care to get your hands on a terrifically moving and powerful song, find Madame LeFarge’s “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” I wanted to take that woman home with me and reform her (and let her sing at me all day) – she was spectacular. My mom would have loved it. I’m sorry to tell you that  Saturday was closing night. I wish I’d seen the show at the beginning of the run, so everyone who lives within a couple hundred miles could have heeded my invitation and seen it.

It was good, okay?

Then yesterday! Yesterday, our cute friends-who-were-neighbors came for a visit. We ate yumminess and talked for several hours and giggled at their cute children and had pie. Don’t you love reconnecting with friends? Especially the kind who want to move back close? And eat together again and again? And also, pie? Me, too.

WRITING ACCOUNTABILITY TIME: I got more than 1,000 words in this morning before I had to be all done (read: Husband and Kids wanted to TALK to me). I liked my scene. I hope you will, too. Someday. 🙂

The sun is sparkling on the new mountain snow. I have crocuses, and tulips are coming. Nobody goes to school for five whole days. Remember that I love spring? I remember.