Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Something about the turning of the year propels people to resolve themselves. To lose weight, to finish a story, to find a (better) job. I find it hard to go back, scramble through papers and find the ending year's resolutions to see what was accomplished, but I still like the idea of starting off with a goal.

I have some of the usual goals, to exercise more, try to be more fit, and since I graduated in May (spent the summer and part of the fall editing and querying), I haven't found a job yet, so that's a big goal as well. I let my crafty Christmas pull me away from the job-hunting. For this blog, however, I focus on the writing goals.

Between tomorrow and this day next year, I will:

Revise 'Hounds' at least once more.

Query agents on that urban fantasy.

Edit Harry's Skin (my M.A. thesis, and frankly, the reason I applied for the graduate program in the first place).

Start querying for that around May/June.

Finish first draft of my steampunk ghost story. (Probably get some editing in as well, but we'll see how the other editing goes first.)

It was three, almost four years ago that I realized I could finish a novel-length story. After accomplishing a full first draft, though, comes the heavy editing. I've reached a point where I can see what doesn't work, and I can fix some of it, but some solutions still elude me. I resolve to examine my editing practices more this year, so that I don't look at the editing process as endless, hellish, or treat it so hesitantly that I neglect to textually weedwhack it as necessary (I know there are times that I let myself get bogged down in the small edits rather than deleting or rewriting scenes, because I didn't want to admit something so big was wrong.)

One revelation about my writing, which I've made this year, is that my first drafts are rather rambly. So you can see, most (all) of my blog posts are essentially first drafts, but for that, I hope you forgive me and accept the extemporaneousity of it. I'll try to recognize more in these writing habits so as to improve the first drafts and make the editing easier.

Any new writing goals for you readers out there?

I'll leave off this last post of 2009 with a simple wish, for all of you, your friends and family, to be healthy, be happy, and to write much and well.

Happy New Year! Happy writing, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Holiday Greetings

Just swinging by in the still-very-busy time before Christmas to say Happy Holidays to all the readers, writers, and passersby.

In a perfect world, I'd post a little 'Happy (insert holiday here),' for each one that arrives, but I tend to fall behind and don't keep track of them all. So to those who celebrate Solstice or Chanukah, a belated happy holidays. And to the Christmas followers and Kwanzaa celebrants, an early Season's Greetings.

I hope everyone is with people they love, eating food they enjoy, in a place they want to be.

For those in colder climates, stay warm; for those like me in less-snowy regions, don't forget sunscreen.

Happy Holidays everyone, and I wish you all a wonderful New Year!


Monday, December 7, 2009

A Writer's Angel and Devil, aka A Giving Thanks Post

I've been away, writing, then trying to write, then getting ready for the holidays. I'm still getting ready for the holidays. But I'm dropping by because I got an email last night. It wasn't a fun email to read, but it brought to mind something I believe about what writers need:

Everyone who wants to write a book and get published needs their own version of the angel and devil on your shoulder.

I feel lucky to have so many people [my writerly sister, a writer's group, fellow (former) grad students in the English Department] who are willing to read my work. Most of the time, I get a sort of middling response, some encouragement or praise, and some critique and suggestions for improvement. But I feel like every writer (and of course, this is all IMHO) should have at least one friend who reads your work and points out all the good stuff, to stand by you and say you can make it, regardless of the countless revisions and rejections.

To counter that, we also seem to need one friend/critique partner who doesn't sugarcoat things. Of course, it's nice if they can put it in an encouraging way, but they should be the one person to say, "They haven't told that X, Y, and Z also need work. And these three chapters are weak/plotless/meandering/etc."

It's so hard to finish a novel, to face the hundred possible rejections from agents and publishers, that it helps to have at least one person out there who believes in you whole-heartedly. (Make sure they believe it, lip-service fiends need not apply.) Someone you can go to when you've had a bad day, the writing is stalling, your confidence is low, and they say one line to keep you going, to try that scene again, to brave the task of throwing out whole chapters (when you're so tied to your words, but you know they don't work and need to go).

At the same time, you want to be ready when you face those agents and publishers. Advice abounds, opinions vary, but one thing seems general enough and a strong enough statement to be almost universal: submit your mansucript when it's the best you can make it.

The best, the absolute best. I know that I get to a point in writing and editing when I'm too close to a story to see where the faults lie. I can tell if something doesn't quite work, but not always know how to fix it. Your "devil" is there to help you through that. To say, "Yes, that character is two-dimensional. No, your subplot about so-and-so doesn't work." It won't always be easy to hear, no matter how good they are at softening the blow, but if they're the right person on your shoulder, they'll tell you what you need to know to be a better writer. I find those are the critiques where I listen or read the comments and can agree almost immediately with most of what's being said, but it can be harsh, so I still need to step back and look at those edits a day or two later.

I said this was a giving thanks post, and it is. I find it hard to believe in or accept the historical stories we're told about Thanksgiving when we're young, but there a good idea behind it. One day when you stop and think about the things you have and the people around you that you should be grateful for. Tell them thank you when perhaps you take them for granted the rest of the year. I know it's already December, so very late for this, but giving thanks is something we should do throughout the year anyway. As hard to hear as some critiques can be, I am thankful I have someone willing to tell me what I need to know. It's nice to have one person always standing in my corner,telling me I'll get there, and they get me through some bad days, but...for both people...I try not to take for granted the ones who'll be there when I need them.

Thank you.

Happy writing everyone,