So, one novel is done. But the next novel has been a jewel in my mind, nipping at my attention–demanding my attention–more and more. And so, it has begun.
The new novel’s plot is mostly done, outlined and laid bare during one of my interludes between drafts of the previous novel. Now I’m re-familiarizing myself with these characters, this place, these scenes and the story they all tell–and I’m slipping under the spell. I want to write this, need to write this.
Still, I can’t simply ignore the previous novel. I’m still chipping away at a query letter that resonates, no–sings–with the story of the book. In under 500 words. And next week is ICFA, the first conference I’ll go to in person in 2.5 years! So I’ll need to have my elevator pitch ready for BOTH novels, just in case I see an agent or editor who asks (yes, the dream! and the terror of blowing it!).
Which means I’m stuck with this odd dissonance of trying to be in two places at once (the novels’ settings are entirely different). Of trying to split my attention between two books I love–one I’ve written, one begging to reach that same place. It’s like being the human with the lap that your two cats are battling to “own:” you love them both and are thrilled they both love you, even though you wish they’d just get along.
Honestly, I also realize it’s a good place to be in. One novel is done, another is beckoning me. My muse is feeding me well, enticing me ever forward, and I have the ability to follow, and write. What more can I ask? Nothing, really.
But I’ve got to go. The muse is calling, and my attention drifts ever back to writing…
That kind of feels like what my brain is saying in regards to “the new normal” of living life alongside/with a pandemic. I am healthy. So far, my family and close friends are all healthy (or at least not suffering from COVID-19 symptoms). But my brain is “noping out” of serious stuff right now, apparently filled to overflowing with dread and malaise from keeping up with the news.
In practical terms, this means my brain refuses to let me work on my novel. Working on novel edits requires a massive amount of “holding stuff in my head” in order to keep moving forward: each character’s arc, the plot arc, the overall scene goal, the chapter goal, the corrections currently necessary to each of the previous, the finer points of wordsmithing, AND the ability to mark something for later attention.
And I just…can’t. It’s too much right now, too overwhelming.
And while that’s okay, it’s not okay for me to stop writing altogether. I don’t want to do that, or to let even these circumstances control me so much. Instead, I’ve returned to short fiction. I’ve had several dozen short stories languishing in various stages of (in)completion, and added more to that number in January, when I participated in another Weekend Warrior flash fiction contest over on Codex. These stories, along with previous years’ stories, have been begging for revision, for editing and refining and rewriting before they can achieve a story’s ultimate goal: submission to market. And that’s what I’m doing.
This is the exact type of challenge I need. Each story is short, far smaller in scope than a novel, and thus easier for me to hold all the parts in my head. Also, each story can be completely reworked in a matter of days, so I get a rush of much-needed endorphins to propel me into the next story. And I can work different stories on different days, changing tone or genre or sub-genre depending on my ever-shifting mood and the mood of the world happening around me.
It’s been a great change for me, and has re-invigorated my writing practice. I’ve sent out more stories in 3 weeks than in the previous seven months, when I’d been exclusively noveling. In fact, right now I’m sitting on some really good news–but until contracts are signed, it’s got to remain my little secret. Just know that I’m holding something shiny and new against my heart, waiting to share it all with you as soon as I can.
Be safe, everyone. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Stay at home to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the health and safety of healthcare workers and first responders who are unceasing in their efforts to save as many lives as they can. Be good to each other, and to yourself. To quote from The Red Green Show, “We’re all in this together.”
Out the window: Clear blue skies and oaks in greens shading from newly leafed spring green to a contented have-been-here-a-month-now darker green, while the grass is turning a crispy shade of tan.
On the desktop: oh what a mess! Notes, a water glass (it’s the dry season, and not only the grass gets crispy without hydration), a pack of gum, the dog’s toy (so he’ll just nap already!), about 15 gagillion notebooks (no I don’t have a notebook problem why do you ask?), more notes, a scattering of various pens, a to-do list, the type of toner cartridge my printer needs written on yet another note, printouts of chapters for editing, and a Lamy fountain pen containing beautiful Diamine Red Dragon ink.
Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m doing another pass of Unspoken, this being the final one before beta (alpha?) readers get their hands on it. It’s nerve-wracking, seeing what you thought was “really good” writing at the time, and now seeing all the problems with it. Like, “What was I thinking, this is terrible and why didn’t I just do thing X here instead? The whole novel is a trashfire” type of problems.
And yet, my friends tell me this is completely warranted at this stage of writing. I’m sick of this book, seeing and reading the same stuff, over and over. And yet, I still love this world, and my characters, and…
I gave myself a break this past week. I worked on short story editing. It felt great. Like a huge breath of fresh air and energy. Subbed out a few shorts, and now have two stories on hold–YAY! “On hold” doesn’t always result in a sale, of course, so there’s still room for disappointment. But it did the trick and I feel ready to attempt novel edits with renewed enthusiasm.
And Another Thing: Novel corona virus. Social distancing. Isolation. Ugh. This stuff is real, and really bad. Wherever you are, I hope you stay safe and healthy. Wash your hands, please, and stay home whenever possible.
I know, I can’t quite believe it either, but here we are at November 15. Halfway through the month, and for those doing NaNoWriMo, panic may be setting in.
I’m not exactly doing NaNo–it doesn’t fit with my way of writing, and would just frustrate the crap outta me. Combine that with some serious home stresses right now, and well. Recipe for disaster, anyone?
Still, I have a goal for this month. I’m doing deep revision on this novel, and the goal is to get through the “giant swampy middle,” otherwise known as Act 2, by the end of the month. I’m a tad behind, but only a little bit, so I’m not really concerned. Instead, I’m kind of surprised I’m not more behind than I am–which means I’m actually quite pleased! So … wow. I’m making this happen after all! Go me. 🙂
And if you’re doing NaNo, good luck. Don’t panic. Not “winning” NaNo doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or not a writer. It just means that, like me, NaNo isn’t for you. Just keep writing, at your own pace. Good luck.
Out the window lanai: High clouds quickly burning off as the sun’s glare rises above the treeline in the east, until they thicken to the west and flow back east, making the sun play hide and seek. Green, green everywhere, after the rains last night and yesterday’s sprinkles. And with the rising heat, the humidity is already beginning to feel oppressive. Birdsong and a jay’s scolding screech mostly mute the distant hum of traffic as I sit outside in the screen room this morning.
On the desktop: Since I’m outside, there’s a potted jade plant taking up much tabletop real estate. Other than that, this computer, two notebooks (one for the novel, the other holding today’s To-Do list), my glasses case, a book to read, and a pen. Pretty austere, but it’s all I need for now.
Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m editing this draft of Unspoken, my novel-in-progress. I’m nearing the end of a rather large section that needed 100% new words, and am looking forward to faster progress once I burst through to the next “revision edit” section (instead of a “rewrite edit”). I made a rather significant plot change near the end of the last draft knowing this would entail some dramatically rewritten sections, and I don’t regret it in the least. Now I can see how much better the book is, how the character is gaining a clear arc, how the plot is moving along much more quickly. It’s both gratifying and motivating to see this happening; to have proof, of a sort, that my writing actually doesn’t suck–because, you know, writers are always fighting those Brain Weasels that tell them they’re the worst ever. Even once they’ve made it to full “active” SFWA membership.
Of course, the dog is another “work-in-progress” who demands attention, too. We’re a week post-surgery right now, and he’s not allowed to move. I carry him outside to pee and poop; he eats meals lying down in his crate; if I’m not there watching he has to wear the Elizabethan collar; he puts no weight on the leg that was operated on, and if he bends that leg much he’s in such pain he gasp-whimper-kreels until I can straighten it again. So, yes, divided attention.
And Another Thing: Supplies for the walls that will make our back yard terraced are supposed to start showing up today, and I can’t wait for this to begin–so it can end and I can actually have a usable back yard! The herbs and veggies I want to plant along the wall edges will make my gardening and cooking heart so happy! But, with the scattered showers we’ve had, and which are predicted for the next week, who knows if delivery will occur today or not. So, fingers are crossed but I’m not holding my breath.
Besides, it’s hard to type when your breath is held too long. lol
This morning I woke to a thick blanket of fog rolling up from the low spaces. It hung heavy over the earth, dampening sound as well as grasses and shrubs. As the sun rose, it shrouded the sky higher up, making distant trees indistinct and grainy, and obscured the yellow ball of the sun until just recently. Even the crows respected the fog, remaining quieter, longer.
A sure sign of transitional weather, this is the first fog I’ve seen this season. It means cooler weather to come, and a quick check of the weather proves this to be true. I’m ready for fall–real fall, that sticks around instead of fleeing at the first sign of Summer’s pushback, letting temps climb back into the upper 80s and above. I’m ready for long sleeves, and long pants, and maybe a roast or stew for dinner. Change: it’s good, and it’s time.
I’ve been writing on the novel, but my written words aren’t as prolific as they were at my residency. This makes me feel like I’m slacking, or shirking, while in reality, it’s just life slowly gobbling away my time and attention. I’m trying not to let it get me down, but (like with so much in this world, and this life), it’s hard.
To counter the sense of getting nowhere fast, I’ve re-started a daily word count spreadsheet that some of the people I went to Taos Toolbox with use. We keep it on a Google Docs spreadsheet, available to all of us, so there is a small public accountability built in. And I’ve got to admit, seeing the “smaller” daily word count building up is helping me see that I am making real progress after all.
I’m also taking one day a week to work on editing short stories that I’ve written which have been languishing, unsubmitted, unedited–sometimes only half-written–in favor of the novel. This, too, feels good. The “instant gratification” of a short story, or a short story submission, is a shot of endorphins straight to the brain. “Look, see–I am a writer! I do have submissions out!” Brains, they’re such silly, manipulatable things, amiright?
Things to look forward to:
I’m approaching the mid-point of the novel! Things really pick up pace after that.
Thanksgiving! (and Thanksgiving leftovers!) Yum.
Hearing the return of the sandhill cranes as they wing overhead.
Watching Dasher get frisky, and run and play longer in the newly cool weather.
Anniversary travel in early December. Even though our wedding was in September, our big trip is planned for December. You’ll see why, once I post some photos. 🙂
Well, the crows have ceased their calling, so it’s time for me to start the writing day. Enjoy fall, in whatever form it takes for you (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!). Linger in the moment, make it a good memory. Something you can see and feel and smell again, over and over, when you need it. Yes, there’s definitely magic in that.
I’ve had an incredibly busy summer–and now that it’s fall (by human reckoning, if not by Mother Nature’s calendar), I’d like to tell you about it. Get comfy–grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair–as this may take awhile.
First off, I’ve been battling some not-fun health issues. I won’t get into them here, but suffice it to say, I’ve not been getting as much writing done as I’d like, and that has made me a bit grumpy. And, it loosed the ever-patient brain weasels–you know, those mad little beasts that like to nibble away at your self-confidence, erode your cheer into fear, etc., at any chance. If you’re a creative of any time, I’m sure you’ve experienced them. Basically, not writing made me cringe, but whatever writing I did wasn’t “good enough,” or even just “enough.” I should have been doing more. Which made me want to not want to write, because it made me feel bad. Which unleashed yet more brain weasels…
You see how this is a nasty cycle. Fortunately, (I think?) I’m familiar enough with this that I just keep plugging away at it. I let the weasels run riot and do my darnedest to ignore them. They don’t go away, but at least I don’t let them monopolize my brain.
So despite the weasels, I managed to finish the first draft of Unspoken, and I’m closing in on my plan for the rewrite, which is what Draft 2 will be: a complete rewrite.
You might think I’d be upset about that, and well, let’s face it–I wish I could just do a quick polish and know it’s “perfect.” Of course I do. But it’s not, and I’m okay with that. I know what I need to do, and I want this novel to be good, really good. I feel it can get there, and this is the way to do it. (Thanks go to my husband, and my VP, Taos, and Codex friends and acquaintances who’ve been cheerleaders along the way, keeping me up when I got down, and shouting down the weasels when they got to me.)
The dog has been mostly good, fortunately. He had a pretty hard seizure yesterday, but it’s the first for a while. Since he’d been kenneled, I’m not sure what the trigger was for this one–maybe just stress? He is a homebody and a cling-on boy, so it may well be the case. Other than this, he’s been good. No surgeries, no real illnesses (other than a startling case of allergy to some pollen or another), just chillin’ away the summer heat and humidity. So YAY!
At the beginning of summer, the plum tree went berserk, and I managed to make all the plum jam. Now the beautyberry bush is in full lavender berry, and I’m making beautyberry jelly. It’s really very good, and made a terrific ice cream! Fiddly as all get out to pick the berries off the stems, and pull out the leaves and other various debris, but worth it in the end. The recipe I used is here.
Spousal Unit and I celebrated our anniversary recently–a big one, too. One that’s valued as a precious metal, even–Silver! (But it’s odd, I don’t feel that old.) To celebrate, we went to Disney World (hence the dog being kenneled), and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I got to wake up and look out our balcony window to see giraffes, zebra, antelope, springbok, and more. I was in heaven! Interns from various African countries worked at the lodge, and were very happy to discuss their countries’ various cultures, animals, foods, economies, etc. It was really amazing, and I loved every bit of it. Here are some pics, just because I need to share the joy:
That last pic is of a fantastic group of interns we met while in line at the Pandora ikrom ride (which is awesome!). They were finishing up their yearlong internships at Disney, and would soon be heading back to Singapore. We had a great 50 minutes line-wait chatting together, and they had nothing but good to say about their experience.
Which brings me back to home. And the upcoming trip…
This next weekend, weather and hurricanes permitting, I’m heading off to a 2-week residency in Key West, where I’ll be feverishly working on the novel’s rewrite. I’m so excited I’m bouncing at the prospect of 2 full weeks with nothing to do but write and, well, basically keep myself alive by eating and sleeping. I’ll report back once I’m home, but don’t expect to see a lot from me (yeah, I know–what else is new?!?) during the end of September. Maybe on Twitter now and again, but probably not too much.
I’ll leave you with a bit of good news: my story Cold Currents has gotten a publication date! You’ll be able to read it in January 2019 at Abyss & Apex Magazine. Hurray! And yes, I’ll be sure to update with a reminder at publication time.
Time is flying, like it always seems to do. But I have some lovely fruit coming into harvest right now, and just have to show you today’s harvest:
The plums are just hanging in thick clusters on the tree, dragging the branches to sweep the ground. I have to duck low and creep under the higher ones to get inside their barrier in order to harvest–and to clean up the ones the previous two days of rain have knocked off! Fortunately, if I leave them on the counter for a day or so, even these have ripened nicely. This certainly makes up a bit for last year’s harvest of 6 plums (due to a late frost!).
The blueberries are in their first year. We just planted them in early April, so I can’t take credit for their bounty this year. But we are definitely eating said bounty with gusto!
And the strawberries. Well, if I can keep the pill bugs and the squirrels away from them, they are delicious, as always. They just keep popping out scrumptious fruits now and again, throughout the season. It’s all yum.
After having gone through some rather scary health issues and followup physical therapy, I’m now getting my head back into writing, as well. It’s a relief to get back to the novel, but not so pleasing to still be writing the first draft I thought would be finished by April!
It is what it is, though, and all my angst won’t make the draft done if I don’t write it. So, I’m off to do just that, right now.